Category Archives: Commentary

Mar. 29, 2020 Blumbers

Panicdemic

I am seeing some odd behavior with coronavirus outbreak. I was walking down a street and a woman wearing a red baseball hat approached me and asked if I wanted to buy the car or RV in front of her house. The house was on sale too. She wanted cash. 

On another street at 9:00 PM, someone was mowing their lawn in the rain wearing a headlamp like a coal miner. There was a for sale sign on the lawn and an open house the next morning. Once again not interested.

Stores are blocking entrances and exits with lines of shopping carts or stacks of empty wooden palettes. This could be dangerous in an emergency. If there is a fire or earthquake, people will need to get out quickly. Blocking makes it more difficult for disabled and the elderly to get out. Yellow tape and orange traffic cones are safer. If you think you need  barriers you might want to close the store altogether.

One store insisted I use a shopping cart. Rather than touching one I went elsewhere.

A homeless man riding a bicycle down a street had a Bluetooth speaker blaring Kenny G light jazz. It was rather calming to hear elevator music during a pandemic.

One store had a man in front with an accordion playing the tango from the film Twelve Monkeys. Super eerie.

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Mar. 22, 2020 Blumbers

My Corona

The end of the world always happens at the worst possible time. I meet and photograph thousands of people every year. Astoundingly,  I do not have symptoms yet. I carry a couple of cameras and I am usually more than six feet away. There is no time to  shake hands. Last week, every event I was supposed to cover was cancelled. It was time to take a break.

The first sign that things had changed was no toilet paper at the grocery store. People should know the coronavirus affects the lungs and  not the digestive system.

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved. 

Mar. 20, 2020 U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (r-NC) Insider

On March 20, 2020 NPR’s Tim Mak reported “Intelligence Chairman Raised Virus Alarms Weeks Ago, Secret Recording Shows” The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee warned a small group of well-connected constituents three weeks ago to prepare for dire economic and societal effects of the coronavirus, according to a secret recording obtained by NPR.  The remarks from U.S. Sen. Richard Burr were more stark than any he had delivered in more public forums.  On Feb. 27, 2020 when the United States had 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19, President Trump was tamping down fears and suggesting the virus could be seasonal.  

“It’s going to disappear. One day, It’s like a miracle. It will disappear,” the president said then, before adding, “it could get worse before it gets better. It could maybe go away. We’ll see what happens.”  

On that same day, Burr attended a luncheon held at a social club called the Capitol Hill Club. And he delivered a much more alarming message.  “There’s one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history,” he said, according to a secret recording of the remarks obtained by NPR. “It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.”  
 
The luncheon had been organized by the Tar Heel Circle, a nonpartisan group whose membership consists of businesses and organizations in North Carolina, the state Burr represents. Membership to join the Tar Heel Circle costs between $500 and $10,000, and promises that members “enjoy interaction with top leaders and staff from Congress, the administration, and the private sector,” according to the group’s website.  In attendance, according to a copy of the RSVP list obtained by NPR, were dozens of invited guests representing companies and organizations from North Carolina. And according to federal records, those companies or their political committees donated more than $100,000 to Burr’s election campaign in 2015 and 2016. (Burr announced previously he was not planning to run for reelection in 2022).  
 
The message Burr delivered to the group was dire.  Thirteen days before the State Department began to warn against travel to Europe, and fifteen days before the Trump administration banned European travelers, Burr warned those in the room to reconsider.  
 
“Every company should be cognizant of the fact that you may have to alter your travel. You may have to look at your employees and judge whether the trip they’re making to Europe is essential or whether it can be done on video conference. Why risk it?” Burr said.  Sixteen days before North Carolina closed its schools due to the threat of Coronavirus, Burr warned it could happen.  
 
“There will be, I’m sure, times that communities, probably some in North Carolina, have a transmission rate where they say, let’s close schools for two weeks, everybody stay home,” he said.
 
And Burr invoked the possibility that the military may be mobilized to combat the Coronavirus. Only now, three weeks later, is the public learning of that prospect.  
 
“We’re going to send a military hospital there, it’s going to be in tents and going to be set up on the ground somewhere,” Burr said at the luncheon. “It’s going to be a decision the president and DoD make. And we’re going to have medical professionals supplemented by local staff to treat the people that need treatment.”  
 
Burr has a unique perspective on the government’s response to a pandemic, and not just because of his role as Intelligence Committee chairman. He helped to write the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA), which forms the framework for the federal response.  
 
But in his public comments about the threat of COVID-19, Burr never offered the kind of precise warning that he delivered to the small group of his constituents.  
 
On Feb. 7, 2020 Burr coauthored an op-ed that laid out the tools that the U.S. government had at its disposal to fight Coronavirus.  
 
“Luckily, we have a framework in place that has put us in a better position than any other country to respond to a public health threat, like the coronavirus,” Burr said in a statement on March 5.  He pressed a CDC official in early March as to why the nation’s pandemic surveillance capabilities had fallen short despite the millions in funding he had helped secure for that purpose through PAHPA.  But despite his longtime interest in bio-hazard threats, his expertise on the subject, and his role as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Burr did not warn the public of the government actions he thought might become necessary, like he did at the luncheon on Feb. 27.  
 
Burr’s office did not directly respond to a list of questions sent by NPR.  
 
His spokesperson Caitlin Carroll provided a statement that stressed Burr’s decades-long interest in public health preparedness.  
 
“Since early February, whether in constituent meetings or open hearings, he has worked to educate the public about the tools and resources our government has to confront the spread of coronavirus,” Carroll wrote. “At the same time, he has urged public officials to fully utilize every tool at their disposal in this effort. Every American should take this threat seriously and should follow the latest guidelines from the CDC and state officials.”  
 
One public health expert told NPR that early warnings about a coming health crisis and its effects could have made a difference just a few weeks ago.  
 
“In the interest of public health, we actually need to involve the public. It’s right there in the name. And being transparent, being as clear as possible is very important,” said Jason Silverstein, who lectures at the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School.  
 
“The type of language that could have come out there at the end of February saying here’s what we ought to expect could have, you know, not panicked people, but gotten them all together to have to all prepare,” Silverstein added.
 
Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Mar. 19, 2020 Li Wenliang

On March 19, 2020 NPR’s Amy Cheng reported “Chinese Authorities Admit Improper Response To Coronavirus Whistleblower” Li Wenliang, the ophthalmologist whose early warnings of the coronavirus earned him a reprimand from Chinese authorities, is finally receiving justice — albeit posthumously. Authorities in the country are apologizing to his family and dropping their reprimand, six weeks after his death from the disease caused by the virus.  Widely known as a whistleblower who spoke up about the outbreak in the city of Wuhan, China, the 34-year-old doctor was initially punished by local authorities. They said he was “spreading rumors” in early January, after he had tried to warn others about the emergence of the novel coronavirus that has now become a global pandemic.  By the time the young doctor died of COVID-19 in early February, the virus had already claimed hundreds of lives. To date, more than 3,000 people have died of the virus in mainland China.  News of his death, coupled with accusations that the government was covering up the outbreak, triggered an avalanche of outrage from a wide cross-section of Chinese society. In response to popular demand, the central government dispatched investigators two days later to look into the circumstances surrounding his police reprimand and death.  

Beijing’s investigators now conclude that Wuhan authorities acted “inadequately” when they reprimanded the late doctor and failed to follow “proper law enforcement procedure.” They did not, however, explain what the correct response should be.  Investigators also characterized his efforts to sound the alarm on the coronavirus as a positive influence that aided in raising awareness.  Shortly after the official findings were published, Wuhan police announced that the two officers responsible for improperly reprimanding Li have been disciplined.

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved. 

Mar. 18, 2020 Food Supply THreatened

March 18, 2020 NPR’s Dan Charles reported “COVID-19 Threatens Food Supply Chain As Farms Worry About Workers Falling Ill”. As Americans scattered to the privacy of their homes this week to avoid spreading the coronavirus, the opposite scene was playing out in the Mexican city of Monterrey.  A thousand or more young men arrived in the city, as they do most weeks of the year, filling up the cheap hotels, standing in long lines at the U.S. Consulate to pick up special H-2A visas for temporary agricultural workers, then gathering in a big park to board buses bound for farms in the United States.  

“I spoke with people going to North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi,” says Justin Flores, vice president of the AFL-CIO’s Farm Labor Organizing Committee, who was in Monterrey for meetings. “[They were] headed to destinations all over the country to provide really important labor that supports the backbone of our economy, which is the agricultural industry.”  About 250,000 workers came to the U.S. on H-2A visas last year, the majority of them from Mexico. They’ve become an increasingly important piece of America’s food industry.  

Late in the day on Monday, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City announced that it is suspending nonemergency visa appointments because of concerns for the health of its employees and visitors.  At the same time, though, the embassy notified farm employers that many — perhaps most — of these farm workers still can get their visas, because they participated in the program last year and don’t require an in-person appointment at the consulate.  

Ryan Ogburn, visa director at wafla, which helps farms manage the flow of H-2A workers in the Pacific Northwest, says that 85-90% of their workers will qualify for this exemption. Meanwhile, influential farm organizations in the U.S. are pushing the Trump administration to ease the entry of more guest workers.  The continuing availability of agricultural workers illustrates the paradox of America’s food supply in the age of COVID-19.  

One end of the food supply chain has been completely upended as restaurants go dark and consumers prowl half-empty aisles of supermarkets. Food producers, though, are operating almost as normal — at least for now.  Slaughterhouses, dairies and vegetable producers say that they are open for business, ready to feed the nation. Howard Roth, president of the National Pork Producers Council, wrote in a statement that “telecommuting is not an option for us; we are reporting for work as always.”  

Food distributors and wholesalers in the middle of that supply chain, meanwhile, are trying to perform logistical miracles, redirecting truckloads of food from shuttered businesses toward places where people now crave it — mainly grocery stores.  “There’s nothing ‘as usual’ anymore,” says Mark Levin, CEO of M. Levin and Co., a fruit and vegetable wholesaler in Philadelphia. Levin normally sells lots of bananas to schools and restaurants, and “unfortunately, all those people, last minute, say, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t use this fruit. You must take it back, or don’t deliver it.’ And that’s tough, because we’ve already got it in the system ripening and ready to sell,” Levin says.  Can he send those bananas instead to grocery stores that are out of stock? “Yes, but at a reduced price,” Levin says.  The problem, Levin says, is that different customers want slightly different things. Schools and other institutions buy boxes of loose “petite” bananas, with 150 bananas in a box. “Grocery stores don’t want those,” he says.  

At least people are still eating. Drinking is a different story.  “We’re losing a lot of occasions, regular things like birthday parties or weddings, where people normally get together,” says Stephen Rannekleiv, who follows the beverage sector for RaboResearch Food & Agribusiness.  

“For the beverage world, those are occasions for consumption. We’re losing some of those,” Rannekleiv says. He notes that in China, overall demand for alcoholic beverages has fallen by about 10% during the coronavirus crisis.  There’s an even bigger worry hanging over the food industry: The prospect of workers testing positive for COVID-19.  When it happens, the response likely will go beyond sending that individual home — although that alone can be catastrophic to field workers who are paid, in part, based on their production. 

This week, the United Farm Workers union called on employers to expand paid sick leave for workers.  Vegetable growers are considering policies that would require quarantine for everyone who worked in close proximity to the infected person. That could easily include two dozen or more people. Workers on H-2A visas often live together, sharing kitchens and bedrooms and traveling together on buses. The virus could spread quickly, and measures to stop it will be extremely costly.  According to Steve Alameda, a vegetable grower in Yuma, Ariz., losing an entire 30-person work crew overnight will be extremely disruptive. Farmworkers already are hard to find, and replacing so many people immediately could prove impossible.  

“We’ve got enough disruption,” Alameda says. “We don’t need to disrupt our food supply, that would be really catastrophic.”

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

mar. 17, 2020 Deaths Of DEspair

On March 17, 2020 NPR’s Jim Zarroli  reported “‘Deaths Of Despair’ Examines The Steady Erosion Of U.S. Working-Class Life” The 20th century was an era of rapid and unprecedented improvement in public health all over the world.  

In the United States alone, a person born in 1900 could expect to live to 49; by 2000, that person’s great grandchildren were likely to see their 77th birthdays. Reaching old age is no longer an anomaly, and that is true for people of every race, ethnicity and social class.  

Around 2000, however, came a stark and dramatic reversal of that trend, one documented in the disturbing book Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism, by the husband-and-wife team of Anne Case and Angus Deaton, who won the 2015 Nobel Prize for Economics. For white Americans between 45 and 54, average life expectancy was no longer increasing; in fact, it was actually declining — in a pattern seen almost nowhere else on Earth. If increases in life expectancy had continued at the same rate, some 600,000 more Americans would now be alive, Case and Deaton write.

This reversal has come almost entirely among white Americans without a four-year college degree, who make up 38 percent of the U.S. working-age population. “Something is making life worse, especially for less educated whites,” Case and Deaton write.  

Much of the decline stems from higher rates of suicide, opioid overdoses and alcohol-related illnesses — the “deaths of despair” that Case and Deaton refer to. Americans “are drinking themselves to death, or poisoning themselves with drugs, or shooting or hanging themselves.”

They’re also no longer making progress against heart disease, due to higher rates of obesity and tobacco use. While U.S. smoking rates have declined precipitously over the years, they remain stubbornly high in states such as Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama and Tennessee. Smoking rates are actually rising among middle-aged white women who lack a Bachelor’s degree.  The America that Case and Deaton write about is an intensely class-bound place, where the less-educated experience higher rates of severe mental disease, have more trouble with the “instrumental activities of daily life,” such as walking, and report more pain. Chronic pain is now more common among the middle-aged than the elderly, they write.  

By contrast, Americans with a Bachelor’s degree live longer, enjoy more stable families, report happier lives and abuse opioids and alcohol less often. They even vote more. Once, suicide was more common among the educated; today, the reverse is true.  

Case and Deaton don’t shy away from the likely cause of this public-health scandal: The collapse of the steady, decently paid manufacturing jobs that once gave meaning and purpose to working-class life. 

They write:  “Destroy work and, in the end, working-class life cannot survive. It is the loss of meaning, of dignity, of pride, and of self-respect that comes with the loss of marriage and of community that brings on despair, not just or even primarily the loss of money.” 

Men without good jobs make lousy husbands and poor fathers. “They may have children from a series of relationships, some or none of whom they know and some of whom are living with other men. Such fractured and fragile relationships bring little daily joy or comfort and do little to assure middle-aged men that they are living a good life,” Case and Deaton write.  

In such a world, marriages break up, and social bonds fray. 

The institutions that once provided ballast to working-class life — unions and mainstream churches — have proven largely ineffectual against the tectonic forces now reshaping the global economy.  

Case and Deaton do a great job making the case that something has gone grievously wrong. The solutions they propose, such as repairing the U.S. safety net and overhauling the broken U.S. health-care system, are worthy ones, but somehow don’t feel up to addressing the gargantuan social problems they spell out so well.  

Something more will be needed to address the steady erosion of working-class life, with all the heartbreak and despair it’s engendered.

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Mar. 15, 2020 Blumbers

Corona Virus Covid-19

On December 21, 2018 seventeen-year-old Avi Schiffmann in Seattle started a site about the coronavirus in China called nCoV2019.live. The site tracked deaths and numbers of cases locally and globally. It talked about the number of people who have recovered. “I basically just wrote a script that every minute or so just goes to those websites and downloads the latest information.”

On January 10, 2020 NPR’s Pien Huang reported “CDC to Screen For New Strain Of Coronavirus”. Originally called 2019-nCoV, it was spreading in the Hubei province city of Wuhan. More than forty people were diagnosed with mysterious viral lung infections since early December. It may have originally spread from bats to an unknown animal and then to humans. Experts think the infection probably came from a seafood and live animal market with people touching or eating animals that carry the virus. These individuals then developed viral symptoms including fever, breathing issues and lesions on their lungs. Approximately two percent of mainly older humans die from it.

The coronavirus family includes six other strains known to infect humans. Four of those strains cause common colds, and two (SARS and MERS) have caused major pandemics. All share a signature look under a strong microscope: a circle with spikes coming off the surface, ending with small blobs — hence the “corona.” “Kind of looks like the peaks of a crown,” says Carolyn Machamer, a virologist and cell biologist at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

On January 24, 2020 NPR’s Emily Vaughan reported “Coronavirus 101: What We Do — And Don’t — Know About The Outbreak Of COVID-19” The corona virus called 2019 novel coronavirus was renamed COVID-19 by the United Nations World Health Organization. 

The virus can spread from human to human. Early symptoms include fever and dry cough. Some people also experience fatigue, headaches and, less frequently, diarrhea. Shortness of breath can develop in about 5 days. Symptoms in severe cases include pneumonia (which makes it harder to breathe) and kidney failure. People over age 40 who died had significant underlying conditions” like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Some eighty percent of cases were mild with twenty percent of more severe cases requiring hospitalization. Two percent could be fatal.

Chinese government officials temporarily shut down transportation to and from Wuhan by bus, subway, ferry, airplane and train, according to Chinese state media. At least twelve other Chinese cities have limited travel as well. The travel ban came just days before the biggest holiday on the Chinese calendar, the Lunar New Year. Despite that COVID-19 spread from China to  the U.S., Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. 

On Mar. 4, 2020 NPR’s Stacey Vanek Smith reported “The Corona Bump” “Coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on the global economy and on businesses, disrupting manufacturing all over the world.”

That same day NPR’s Bill Chappell reported “Coronavirus Deaths In Washington State And California, Where Gov. Declares Emergency” The most recent death is connected to a cruise ship that traveled from the U.S. to Mexico. Officials in Placer County, Calif., announced that an elderly resident has become the first person to die from the illness in California. The patient, who was not identified, had underlying health conditions, according to the county. The patient tested positive for the coronavirus illness on March 3, 2020 and “was likely exposed during international travel from Feb. 11-21 on a Princess cruise ship that departed from San Francisco to Mexico.”

On Mar. 6, 2020 NPR’s Martin Kaste reported “U.S. Hospitals Prepare For A COVID-19 Wave” The  World Health Organization’s Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “We’re concerned that some countries have either not taken this seriously enough or have decided there is nothing they can do. … This is not a drill. This is not the time to give up. This is not a time for excuses. This is a time for pulling out all the stops.” 

Large numbers of people may overwhelm hospitals. The American Hospital Association says the total number of Intensive Care Unit beds is about 65,000. Richard Waldhorn is a pulmonary critical care physician who’s studied hospital preparedness for the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. He says government planning assumptions based on past flu pandemics suggest a surge in demand for intensive care that could range somewhere between 200,000 thousand and 2.9 million patients.

Around the world, people suspected of being infected were being quarantined on ships, military bases and their own homes for at least two weeks. The public was advised to practice social distancing by staying at least six feet apart.  Sporting events and other large gatherings like conventions are being cancelled and hurting local economies. People are losing their jobs and causing a downturn.

Mar. 6, 2020 NPR Kelsey Snell, Domenico Montanaro, Scott Horsley, and Asma Khalid reported “Stock Market Slide Could Reshape Election; Biden Faces Test In South Carolina Primary” the stock markets around the world began to fall thousands of points because of disruption by COVID-19.

On March 9, 2020 MSNBC’s Steve Benen reported “Trump struggles to explain why he disbanded his global health team”. “It was two years ago when Trump ordered the shutdown of the White House National Security Council’s entire global health security unit. NBC News had a good report on this recently, noting that the president’s decision “to downsize the White House national security staff — and eliminate jobs addressing global pandemics — is likely to hamper the U.S. government’s response to the coronavirus.”

On March 11, 2020 NPR’s Jason Beaubien reported COVID-19 Is Officially A Pandemic, Declares World Health Organization. The head of the WHO Tedros, Adhanom Ghebreyesus, today he said that the WHO is making this designation because they expect that things are going to get worse.

On Mar. 13, 2020 NPR’s Avie Schneider reported US President Donald Trump belatedly declared a state emergency. Stock markets fell around the world. Trading was halted as the Dow plunged 2300 points. The bull market became a bear market. “Just on Monday, the stock market had its worst drop since 2008 amid fears that the growing spread of coronavirus would push the global economy into recession.”

On Mar. 14, 2020 NPR’s Maria Godoy reported “Flattening A Pandemic’s Curve: Why Staying Home Now Can Save Lives”. As the coronavirus continues to spread in the U.S., more and more businesses are sending employees off to work from home. Public schools are closing, universities are holding classes online, major events are getting canceled and cultural institutions are shutting their doors. Even Disney World and Disneyland closed. The disruption of daily life for many Americans is real and significant — but so are the potential life-saving benefits of isolation.

It’s all part of an effort to do what epidemiologists call flattening the curve of the pandemic. The idea is to increase social distancing in order to slow the spread of the virus, so that you don’t get a huge spike in the number of people getting sick all at once. If that were to happen, there wouldn’t be enough hospital beds or mechanical ventilators for everyone who needs them, and the U.S. hospital system would be overwhelmed. That’s already happening in Italy.

Hope all this helps figure out what happened.

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Mar. 8, 2020 Blumbers

Tightrope

On January 14, 2020 Michael Schaub of the New York Times reviewed Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope By Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn about the destruction of the working poor. “Kristof and WuDunn, a married couple, follow several of Kristof’s ex-schoolmates with whom he grew up near Yamhill, Ore. “About one-fourth of the kids who rode with Nick on the bus are dead from drugs, suicide, alcohol, obesity, reckless accidents and other pathologies,” they write, saying the fates of Kristof’s friends led them to examine “how our country could have let tens of millions of people suffer an excruciating loss of jobs, dignity, lives, hopes and children, and how we can recover.” “They examine a host of issues, including unemployment, health care, substance use disorder and the prison system. The authors offer a host of proposed solutions, including the expansion of social programs, treatment instead of prison for drug offenders, universal health care and more early-childhood programs. The book ends, helpfully, with an appendix listing suggestions for how people can make a difference in their own communities: volunteering at a homeless shelter, for example, and boycotting companies that don’t pay their employees a living wage.”

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Mar. 3, 2020 Super Tuesday

On Mar. 3, 2020 US Presidential primaries are held in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, Vermont, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. If you live in any of these states, please vote.

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Mar. 1, 2020 Blumbers

The Ideas Of March

On March 3, 2020 California will hold a presidential primary. There are so many candidates the ballot looks like a phone book. Many have already dropped out. Sitting at my desk, I am very carefully filling out my mail-in ballot. There is a lot at stake, so there cannot be any mistakes. All the research. Covering all the events. Going from door to door. Finally it comes down to one person voting . You. Send the message, the idea. The ideas of March and become reality in November.

Gwendolyn Brooks said “We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Feb. 16, 2020 Blumbers

Courting Disaster

I was once told to never whisper anything that I would not say in open court. Can you back it up and confront someone in a court of law with witnesses and evidence? If not, you do not have a case.

I was recently in a courthouse with other people called for jury duty. We need to make it easier for more people to be jurors. It is as important as voting. The waiting room had a large television showing the impeachment trial. It had a hundred senators as jurors but offered no witnesses or evidence. Any county judge would toss a case that did not have basics of of a trial. Why even have jurors? Why make people go to law school and study to pass the bar? Democracy is about getting a second opinion. If it is all arbitrary, we are courting disaster.

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Feb. 12, 2020 Fifth Third Bank News

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On Feb. 12, 2020 Cincinnati Business Journal Steve Watkins reported “Fifth Third Bank Customers Hit By Data Breach”. The bank admitted that a few of their employees stole customer information. The bank will provide identity theft monitoring to affected customers at no cost.

“Fifth Third said its internal investigation uncovered the theft of bank information and led it to refer the matter to law enforcement. Legal authorities are still conducting an investigation into the theft. Fifth Third is cooperating with the authorities “and we look forward to seeing justice served,” it said.”

There is no confirmation that the suspects are from California, worked for a local phone company or fans of a local baseball team.

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Jan. 24, 2020 Space Force Logo

On  Jan. 24, 2020 UPI revealed the US Space Force logo that looks like the  logo for Star Trek. They should just call it Starfleet. Name all the shuttles after aircraft carriers. Find a guy named Kirk to run things. Make him wear velour miniskirts and go-go boots this time around. Fund the operation for three years and then let it go into syndication. Bring it back twenty years later with a much better Shakespearian actor named Picard and wear lycra leotards. Frankly the logo looks like a cursor for a 1990s GIS  app.

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Jan. 20, 2020 MLK and Moms 4 Housing

On January 3, 2020 WBUR’s Tonya Mosley and Serena McMahon reported “In California, homelessness has been labeled by many as a “crisis” — more than a quarter of the nation’s homeless population lives in the state.  Homelessness in the state grew by more than 16% — about 21,300 people — in 2019 alone, according to the latest official count by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In Oakland, homelessness increased nearly 50% over the past two years due, in large part, to rising rents and evictions. 

On January 8, 2020 NPR’s Molly Solomon reported “According to the most recent count, more than 4,000 Oakland residents are experiencing homelessness. Meanwhile, the city estimates the number of vacant properties at around 4,300.” Aaron Glantz, author of Homewreckers, said “corporate entities like Wedgewood have been acquiring properties across the country.” “As families began to lose their homes to foreclosure in 2008 and 2009, it wasn’t other people that came in and bought those homes. It was speculators buying through shell companies.” “In 2016, Wedgewood’s CEO boasted that the company purchased over 200 foreclosed or soon-to-be foreclosed homes nationwide a month, calling the distressed housing market “hot and sexy.”
 
On January 14, 2020 Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman and Juan González reported “Moms 4 Housing: Meet the Oakland Mothers Facing Eviction After Two Months Occupying Vacant House” On November 18, 2019, Dominique Walker, one of the co-founders of Moms 4 Housing, moved into 2928 Magnolia Street in West Oakland California. Wedgewood Properties owned the vacant house and tried to evict them for illegally squatting on private property. The mothers filed a “right to possession” claim, saying housing is a human right. Dominique Walker said “There’s four vacant houses for every one homeless person in Oakland. We are reclaiming this house from a billion-dollar corporation who bought this house at a foreclosed price. It has been vacant for two years while people are living out on the street. We felt like this was necessary to take this step.” She also said “There are 6,000 to 8,000 folks sleeping on the streets. And that’s not even accounting for all of the unhoused people and housing-insecure. This house was owned by Wedgewood, a company that is a displacement machine. They’re composed of five different companies. They all play a role in the direct displacement of people. We’re taking a stand, and it doesn’t end with one house. We want to take Oakland back from all speculators. We’re not going to stop organizing until we all have shelter. I was born and raised in Oakland. And most of folks are either displaced out, at least 45 minutes to a couple hours out, or they’re displaced onto the street.” 
 
Amy Goodman said” “It’s not so much an issue of scarcity, but of distribution.” Democracy Now’s Marianne Maeckelbergh reported “In the last two years, homelessness in Oakland has increased by 47%. With average rental rates in Oakland rising to nearly $3,000 a month, there are few or no options for most people looking for housing.”
 
Carroll Fife, the director of the Oakland office for Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment said “After the housing crisis and the foreclosure crisis of 2008, many homeowners lost their primary residences — their only residences. And so that allowed speculators and the banks that were bailed out by the government at that time to come in and scoop up homes at rock-bottom prices. So, that is still happening, and we’re still experiencing the impacts of the foreclosure crisis, with speculators owning 35% of the housing stock in America.” “So, some state that Oakland has the worst speculation crisis in the country. And that’s observable by how high the rents are. You have the median one-bedroom market-rate unit starting at around $2,500 a month. And so, the housing wage, which is different from the minimum wage or living wage, in Alameda County, where Oakland is located, is $40.88 per hour. And that is out of reach for many of Oakland’s working-class people.” “Wedgewood Properties has approximately 96 subsidiaries. And they are the real estate speculator that is holding the deed for Moms’ House. They are in the business of buying homes at rock-bottom prices and flipping them. And that is part of the problem why housing is so unaffordable in cities like Oakland. They buy houses by bulk, so 100 to 200 properties per month, if not more, in distressed neighborhoods — their words — and then they flip them and sell them to the highest bidder. So it puts home prices out of reach for many working-class people. So they drive up the cost of rents and the cost of actually purchasing a home, which is why homeownership levels are so low.”And that’s what’s criminal about this housing crisis. There are actually places where people can live. But because they’re private, they’re privately owned, it makes it difficult to even crack into what a solution could be, because the private industry doesn’t have to be held accountable. And that is what we’re saying is criminal. It should not be legal for anyone that owns property, particularly corporations.And we want to make a distinction, because that’s what’s been thrown around a lot, too, is that if an individual mom-and-pop owner of a property left it empty because they’re on vacation, then somehow Moms 4 Housing is advocating taking people’s personal property. That is completely and patently false. What we’re saying is corporations should not be able to hold vacant properties when there is a housing crisis. There should not be people living on the streets when there are places where they can live.” “This is — Oakland looks like an entirely different city than it did years ago, and it’s strictly due to corporations that are able to rent-gouge when they have homes for rent and charge way over market for homes that are not worth what they’re actually selling them for.  And so, this is starting a movement where people who are also experiencing housing insecurity, which means they pay more than 30% of their income in rent, are waking up, because they’ve seen this example of Moms 4 Housing define what the market trends are, and saying, “We deserve housing for all, not just for those who can pay the high price tags.”  
 
On January 15, 2020 NPR’s Molly Solomon interviewed Dominique Walker after her family was evicted. “The sheriffs came in. They came in like an army for mothers and babies.” “Armed officers, some wearing combat fatigues, knocked down the front door before handcuffing two of the mothers, Tolani King and Misty Cross. Two activists supporting the women were also arrested. Outside, a small crowd of protesters shouted down the officers.” They were shouting “Shame on you.” 
 
On January 16, 2020 Mother Jones reporter Marisa Endicott wrote “Police Said They Wouldn’t Be “Confrontational.” Then They Came in Riot Gear to Arrest Homeless Moms.” Oakland city council members, including Nikki Fortunato Bas and president Rebecca Kaplan, even got behind the moms and attempted to negotiate the sale of the home to the Oakland Community Land Trust”. Bas said “What the moms are doing is an act of nonviolent civil disobedience, saying that there was a human right to housing, a right to adequate housing.” “This movement is just beginning, and we see what we’re up against, but we also see what they’re afraid of. They’re afraid of us mobilizing over 300 people in 15 minutes. That’s what we did. Because we all care, and we all have humanity, and we want to change this system.” 
 
On January 20, 2020 KQED’s Kate Wolff reported “Moms 4 Housing Group Reaches Agreement to Buy Vacant House”. At an Oakland demonstration on Martin Luther King Day, Moms 4 Housing announced an agreement to buy the home through the Oakland Community Land Trust from Wedgewood. “Members of the group say once the sale goes through, they plan to move into the house and make it a headquarters for their movement. ”Dominque Walker said “We will not stop organizing and fighting until all unhoused folks who want shelter, have shelter.” Carroll Fife, director of Oakland Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, a non-profit that supported Moms 4 Housing, called the agreement “a huge step.”  “What they’re doing is conceding to the pressure that’s been put on them by this movement,” Fife said about Wedgewood.
 

Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Jan. 19, 2020 Blumbers

Second Hottest Year

On January 15, 2020 NPR’s Rebecca Hersher reported “2019 Was The 2nd-Hottest Year On Record, According To NASA And NOAA” Hersher wrote:

 
“Last year was the second hottest on record globally, according to the latest climate data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.
 
It’s the latest confirmation that the Earth is steadily getting hotter — the planet has already warmed about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (or almost 1 degree Celsius) compared with in the mid-20th century — and that robust greenhouse gas emissions are causing global warming to continue unabated.”
 
Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies said “The warming up until now since the 1970s has been quite close to linear,” he explains, so “you’d imagine we’d cross 1.5 [degrees Celsius] in around 2035. But of course that depends on what we do with emissions, and we’re not able to tell you looking at the past how society will react.” 
 
By 2035? We do not have much time. Time to vote.
 
Note: Robots delete all comments, unread.
 
Copyright 2020 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Dec. 29, 2019 Blumbers

Teen Decade: Transportation

After decades of getting easier, getting around is getting harder. Flying is slow, crowded and uncomfortable, unless you are on a private jet. Trains do not go everywhere you want.

Cars get stuck in traffic, but they have great sound systems. There was a guy listening to opera music in the next lane. Wouldn’t it be great if we all sang along? I got a car rental and was given no keys. I just turned on my phone and pressed a start button. The car steered its way through the parking lot and I took it from there. I still have to drive so I turned off the radio.

At the bottom of the transportation scale, urban streets resemble suburban cul de sacs from the 1950s. Grown adults are rolling around on skateboards, scooters and bicycles.  I expect to see coffee shops to turn into lemonade stands.

Copyright 2019 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Dec. 22, 2019 Blumbers

Teen Decade: Affordable Housing and Manger Danger

The term “affordable housing” should bother you. The only kind of housing we should be building is affordable. Ask homeless veterans about their needs and they will say homes. Not socks. Not coats. Homes.

On Dec 11, 2019, the San Francisco Chronicle reported “Official: Cruise ship could house 1000 Oakland homeless” 

“OAKLAND, Calif. — A San Francisco Bay Area city official wants to explore the possibility of using a cruise ship to house up to 1,000 homeless people amid a high cost of living and a shortage of housing.  Oakland City Council President Rebecca Kaplan told a council meeting Tuesday that the ship would be brought to the Port of Oakland, but port officials said Wednesday the move would be “untenable.”

“We respect President Kaplan’s desire to address homelessness but Port of Oakland docks are designed to work cargo ships, there isn’t the infrastructure to berth a cruise ship,” port spokesman Mike Zampa said.  The port is among the 10 busiest in the nation and safety and security issues in the federally regulated facilities “would make residential uses untenable,” Zampa said.  Kaplan didn’t immediately return a request for further comment from The Associated Press.

Kaplan said she has been contacted by cruise ship companies about providing a ship for emergency housing, and that the companies were reaching out to the Port of Oakland about what options exist to park a ship at the port, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. She didn’t provide further details on those companies.  
 
Kaplan said she plans to present a proposal to the council in January that will be “no or low” cost to the city because residents of the cruise ship would pay for rooms based on their income. The city would not buy the cruise ship.  
 
Homelessness has spiked in Oakland in the past two years with the number of unsheltered people increasing from 1,900 to more than 3,000 people.  
 
“It could be a great way to house a lot of people quickly,” Kaplan told The Chronicle. “Cruise ships have been used for emergency housing after natural disasters and for extra housing for things like Olympics.”  
 
Kaplan compared her vision for an Oakland cruise ship to something like the Queen Mary in Long Beach in Southern California. The 1936 ocean liner is now a floating hotel with 347 rooms. A room with two twin beds rents for $141 a night and $146 a night for a full-size bed.  
 
“It could be like that,” Kaplan said. “But as affordable housing instead of hotel.”
 
This raises other solutions for the housing crisis. First, there all the homes not rented because the rent is too high. There are empty shopping malls and office parks all over the country that could be renovated. If you support a sports team, ask if they could turn over their government subsidized stadiums and parking lots. Divert their tax breaks for housing.
 
Homeless people are trying to find their own solutions. Yesterday in the Bay Area I saw someone pitch a tent in a suburban driveway of their former boss. Homeless people are moving into public parks next to monster mansions in Portland. One woman complained they were ruining her view from the solarium. The homeless vet complained she was ruining his view of compassionate behavior.
 
At some point a young homeless couple hiding from the authorities will have a baby in a shed…
 
Copyright 2019 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Dec. 15, 2019 Blumbers

Teen Decade: Gig Economics

Most people can see growing inequality right in front of them. Everybody may have a job, or several jobs, but they are underpaid. The gig economy businesses that survive do so on the margins. AirBnB survives because people cannot afford a hotel room. Uber survives because people cannot afford a car. There are also very good reasons to regulate economic activity. There is a reason you want a licensed cab driver. There is a reason you want to stay at a licensed hotel. Insurance and inspections are good if there is an accident or fire. If your business model cannot afford theses precautions then you should work toward creating a society where you can. 

Copyright 2019 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Dec. 8, 2019 Blumbers

Teen Decade: Longevity

On December 3, 2019 NPR Morning Edition’s David Greene reported “Life Expectancy Study Jolts Assumptions Made About Life In America.” He talked about a Journal of the American Medical Association study  by Dr. Steven Woolf that says U.S. life expectancy is declining, and is not keeping pace with other wealthy countries. He looked at life expectancy, mortality across the United States between 1959 and 2017. Many will not live long enough to retire.

“In fact, our analysis intentionally looked at the data for all 50 states to try to locate where in the country this was happening the most. And what we found was that the increase was largest in the industrial Midwest, central Appalachia and northern New England but particularly in the Ohio Valley. That was like ground zero for this phenomenon. We found, for example, that of all the excess deaths that occur in the United States due to this increase in mortality, one-third of them occurred in four states – Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Indiana. Those four states accounted for one-third of the excess deaths between 2010 and 2017.”

“But one very attractive explanation is the economy. This is the Rust Belt and the area where – at the time when this decline began, the 1980s and ’90s, is when we saw a major transformation in the economy, the loss of manufacturing jobs, coal mines closing, steel mills closing and families and communities exposed to many years of economic stresses. And we think they’re taking their toll on folks’ health.”

Woolf closed by saying “… we need to change our policy priorities in this country and focus more on improving the social and economic conditions for the middle class if we’re going to see a reversal to this trend.”

On December 9, 2019 NPR Morning Edition’s Jason Beaubien reported “There’s A New Kind Of Inequality. And It’s Not About Income” about the the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report. “Achim Steiner, the UNDP administrator, sums up the problem this way: “an increasing number of young people are educated, connected and stuck with no ladder of choices to move up.””

“What people perhaps 30, 40 years ago were led to believe and often saw around them,” Steiner says, “was that if you worked hard, you could escape poverty.” Yet in many countries today, he says upward social mobility is “simply not occurring” anymore.”

“UNDP’s Pedro Conceição, who oversees the Human Development Report, says their research shows that these global inequities are having huge impacts on individual lives.”

“If we look at what happened to a child born in the year 2000 in a low human development country compared to a child born in a very high human development country, there’s a 17% probability that the child [from the low development country] is not alive today, 20 years after she was born,” Conceição says. “While in a very high human development country, there’s only a 1% chance that the child is not alive today.”

Ultimately it is still about money. If you were born in a rich place twenty years ago, you not only get to grow up but go to college. Meanwhile poor people are seventeen times more likely to die. People are demonstrating around the world because they need money for education, housing and food to live.

“Inequalities in human development remain high and widespread,” he notes.

On a similar note, there is a new film called Dark Water starring Mark Ruffalo. It is about the true story of Cincinnati lawyer Robert Bilott who battled DuPont over toxic water pollution in West Virginia.

Let us make life less stressful for each other. People should live long enough to have a future. I guess there is something to that live long and prosper thing after all.

Copyright 2019 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Dec. 1, 2019 Blumbers

Teen Decade: News

Every ten years I try to recap what I think is significant for future reference. In the last century we have seen people get their news from the mail to newspapers to radio to television to the internet. There have always been complaints about accuracy and bias. Journalists ask the standard questions of who, what, where, when, why and how. Ideally the story facts can be verified by reliable sources or public record. Frankly citizens have to do their jobs as well. Keep asking questions. Does it makes sense? Is it reasonable? What is the motive of whoever owns or controls the delivery? Can you back it up with facts? If they cannot state the facts, then it is opinion and goes to editorial.

If someone says something, what is their political party or affiliation? Whatever media you are looking at should display the the time and place it was recorded, the person’s full name and title, the political party affiliation, who they are getting funding from and their affiliation. All this information should be displayed every time they are on camera.

Copyright 2019 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Nov. 29, 2019 STC Renewal

STC Renewal

Today I renewed my membership with the Society of Technical Communication. I recommend joining  STC. It is a great organization if you want to help people locally or around the world. I started out as a student member and took on a number of roles (including chapter president in Silicon Valley) and was eventually named fellow. Ultimately I was on the committee to help decide the next generation of fellows. It was interesting to be on the other side of what is a rigorous process to decide who was the best.

STC helps us learn new skills and network to find employment in an increasingly chaotic market. The goal was to help people and work toward better conditions for all. STC helped do that.

Despite all the advancements in information and communication, professional development inevitably comes down to people sitting down and talking with each other face to face. Many of us benefitted from the decades of hard work by its volunteers so the organization would be here for us. Let us be there for the members who will join long after we are gone.

Copyright 2019 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Nov. 27, 2019 Amazon Safety

On Nov. 27, 2019 on NPR’s Morning Edition’s Will Evans reported “Amazon Warehouse Employees Face Serious Injuries”. Host Steve Inskeep was telling the audience that Amazon gave NPR money but the staff was running the story anyway. It was about unsafe working conditions at Amazon warehouses. About a minute into the story it stops and is switched to a story about refugees. I immediately checked on the web and had real trouble finding the story. Ars Technica is running a similar story. In the public interest, I finally found a transcript as seen below.

November 27, 2019 

Amazon Warehouse Employees Face Serious Injuries, Report Says  

A report from the Center for Investigative Reporting and The Atlantic reveals how Amazon warehouse employees are dealing with crippling injuries. NPR’s Steve Inskeep talks to reporter Will Evans.  

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:  What is the human cost of Amazon’s convenience? The company delivers products from its warehouses to your door in days or even hours. Investigative reporters have found that drive for speed leaves Amazon warehouse employees with chronic pain and crippling injuries. They suffer serious injuries at more than double the industry average. We will tell you now that Amazon is a financial supporter of NPR News, and we are raising these questions about Amazon all the same, which is how it should work. The investigation came from the Center for Investigative Reporting, which publishes the program Reveal. Will Evans is one of the reporters leading this coverage. He joins us via Skype. Good morning.  

WILL EVANS: Good morning.  
 
INSKEEP: I want to work through one case that you examined here in a warehouse in Indiana. What happened there?  
 
EVANS: So there’s a worker named Phillip Lee Terry. He’s a 59-year-old grandfather. He was working on a forklift and when the – it fell on him, basically, and crushed him to death. There was a Indiana OSHA inspector who came in to investigate the death and found that there were some serious safety lapses.  
 
INSKEEP: OSHA – that’s for workplace safety. Now, when you talk about safety lapses, is that connected, in some way, to the drive to fulfill orders quickly?  EVANS: Well, we found broadly that the drive to fulfill orders quickly is injuring, you know, hundreds, thousands of workers at a very – at very high injury rates. In this particular case, the problem seemed to be that he wasn’t properly trained. That’s what the OSHA inspector said. That’s what some of the other workers there said. And it was interesting, that case, because Indiana was, at the same time, bidding for Amazon’s second headquarters to come to the state. And the inspector said he got political pressure to back off – to back off the case. And in the end, Indiana ended up deleting the safety citations.  
 
INSKEEP: Wow. OK. So we have so much money on the line that it is difficult to look into this. What is it about the nature of fulfilling orders quickly in an Amazon warehouse that gets people hurt?  
 
EVANS: So the workers are held to these very high production quotas, processing hundreds of items an hour for up to 12-hour shifts. They know that if they don’t keep up, they can be fired. And so they’re basically sacrificing their bodies either through repetitive stress injuries or strains and sprains. The speed is – seems to be the key element. And the safety – the former safety managers at Amazon that we talked to said they basically can’t protect the workers when the production demands are so high.  
 
INSKEEP: Let’s listen to one worker, Candice Dixon, who had a job in Southern California.  (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)  CANDICE DIXON: For Amazon, all they care about is getting the job done and getting it out fast and not realizing how it it’s affecting us and our own bodies.  
 
INSKEEP: Aren’t Amazon warehouses, though, supposed to have the very latest technology – robots to help retrieve packages, things that are supposed to make this a much easier job?  
 
EVANS: Yeah. It’s interesting. The robots bring the package and bring the items to the workers, so the workers don’t have to walk around for miles to find things. But because that’s so efficient and the robots are so fast, the workers are held to much higher production quotas. So they have to go faster and faster. And as one former safety manager told me, humans are basically tapping out. They can’t keep up.  
 
INSKEEP: They’re trying to turn people into robots, and they can’t quite do it.  
 
EVANS: That’s right.  
 
INSKEEP: Mr. Evans, thank you so much.  
 
EVANS: Thanks for having me.  
 
INSKEEP: Will Evans is a reporter for the Reveal team at the Center for Investigative Reporting.  
 

Copyright 2019 DJ Cline

Nov. 17, 2019 Blumbers

Seasons Greta

On Nov. 13, 2019 NPR’s Laurel Wamsley reported Greta Thunberg’s last  message to America before sailing back to Europe. Thunberg said “We must realize this is a crisis, and we must do what we can now to spread awareness about this and to put pressure on the people in power,” she told The Guardian. “The U.S. has an election coming up soon, and it’s very important that for everyone who can vote, vote.”

Copyright 2019 DJ Cline All rights reserved.