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Gender: Male
Hometown: South Texas. most of my life I lived in Austin and Dallas
Home country: United States
Current location: Bryan, Texas
Member since: Sun Aug 14, 2011, 03:57 AM
Number of posts: 85,862

About Me

Middle-aged white guy who believes in justice and equality for all. Math and computer analyst with additional 21st century jack-of-all-trades skills. I'm a stud, not a dud!

Journal Archives

Dallas Workers and the Purported Labor Shortage in the Restaurant Industry

Jose Gonzalez lost his job as bar manager at Midnight Rambler inside The Joule hotel last year, making him one of many casualties of Headington Companies’ mass layoffs after the onset of the pandemic. Gonzalez credits unemployment for allowing him to “hopefully wait for my job to come back at Rambler.” Time passed and the call never came. (Midnight Rambler reopened on March 26, nearly a year after closing.) Now a year later, others are currently in the position Gonzalez was before he found work with a spirits distribution company. They will soon have less flexibility than he had.

Next month, Texas workers will no longer be eligible for the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefit, which had provided an additional $300 per week. On May 18, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Texas would be opting out of the program. Some have lauded the decision. The Texas Restaurant Association, with nearly 40 other business groups, urged the governor to make such a decision in a letter “because of the critical labor shortage in Texas.” The TRA acknowledges it’s not a silver bullet.

However, removing the extra weekly allowance that had kept so many economically challenged folks afloat during the pandemic is not likely to Pied Piper workers back into dining rooms or kitchens or behind bar tops. The food sector was the hardest hit industry—one that was slow to rehire initially—and will likely have the hardest time recovering fully.

As dire as some say it is, employment has begun to rebound. About 13.8 million people were employed in leisure and hospitality jobs this March, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s up from 8.7 million last April after mass layoffs took place. That’s not nothing. Still, the latest jobs report from the BLS notes that while the leisure and hospitality sector has “added 5.4 million jobs over the year, employment in the industry is down by 2.8 million, or 16.8 percent, since February 2020.”

Read more: https://www.dmagazine.com/food-drink/2021/05/dallas-workers-and-the-purported-labor-shortage-in-the-restaurant-industry/?ref=mpw

North Texas hospice fraud case that bilked Medicare out of $40M ends with doctor guilty verdicts

Hospice patients facing imminent death qualify for around-the-clock care, allowing providers to bill at higher rates.

Novus Health Services, a Frisco hospice company, wanted more of those patients regardless of whether or not they were near death, federal prosecutors said. Greed was the motivation, and Novus overmedicated those patients with potent painkillers like morphine to justify the higher billings to Medicare, officials said.

The decision about which drugs to administer and in what doses was made primarily by Novus’ CEO, Bradley Harris, an accountant with no medical training, as well as his nurses, court documents say. Some patients were seriously harmed and even died as a result of those decisions, prosecutors said.

Harris, 40, of Frisco, and about a dozen other defendants in the Novus health care fraud case have already pleaded guilty in federal court. The last three defendants -- two doctors and a nurse -- went to trial and were convicted this week on multiple counts of health care fraud in Dallas.

Read more: https://www.dallasnews.com/news/crime/2021/05/28/north-texas-hospice-fraud-case-that-bilked-medicare-out-of-40-million-ends-with-doctor-guilty-verdicts/

GOP megadonor Foster Friess dies at 81

Foster Friess, a prominent Republican megadonor who ran for governor in Wyoming in 2018, died Thursday at the age of 81.

The Jackson investor finished second to now-Gov. Mark Gordon in the 2018 GOP primary with 25.6% of the vote, despite earning the endorsement of then President Donald Trump. Gordon was the state treasurer at the time.

The Jackson Hole News&Guide reported in January that Friess had been diagnosed with myelodysplasia, a form of bone marrow cancer. Friess posted on social media in March that he was dealing with the ailment.

“When people would ask what his disease was, he would say, ‘My white blood cells were on strike,’” said House 2022 candidate Darin Smith, a good friend and political ally of Friess.

Read more: https://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/govt-and-politics/gop-megadonor-foster-friess-dies-at-81/article_82e2198a-f23d-5d63-a1a6-61f330fe9891.html
(Casper Star Tribune)

Wyoming Business Council recruit pays $5.6M federal fraud settlement

Wyoming Business Council recruit Tungsten Heavy Powder — a California defense contractor with Laramie-based manufacturing — has agreed to pay the federal government $5.6 million to settle fraud allegations from the Department of Justice.

Federal prosecutors alleged the company violated the False Claims Act by having U.S.-funded parts for the Israeli military manufactured in China — a practice not allowed under federal law — while “falsely certifying that it sourced product materials in the United States,” according to a DOJ press release.

The business’s “illegal activities directly threatened the economic and national security and safety of U.S. military personnel by supplying misrepresented materials of unknown quality and integrity from un-vetted Chinese suppliers to be used in defense articles provided to the [Department of Defense],” the federal claim states.

Tungsten Heavy Powder, whose administrative office is in San Diego, has also produced parts for the U.S. military. It has had more than $7 million worth of U.S. government contracts since 2008, according to court documents.

Read more: https://www.wyofile.com/wyo-business-council-recruit-pays-5-6m-federal-fraud-settlement/

Session brought substantial changes to Montana's election system

Regardless of whether they believe the session reinforced the security of Montana’s elections or amounted to an assault on the voting rights of its residents, lawmakers agree that the 67th Legislature passed the most sweeping changes to the state’s election laws in years.

Sen. Mike Cuffe, a Eureka Republican who carried two of the most substantial voting bills to pass, said the session was the most consequential for Montana’s elections since his first legislative session in 2011. And it’s no coincidence that Republicans won historic gains in the state during the last election. In addition to capturing the governor’s office for the first time in 16 years, the GOP also expanded their majorities in both the House and Senate.

“It’s kind of a national mood, a national sweep of concern about elections and consequently I’ve felt a responsibility to remove any questions about how elections are conducted,” Cuffe said.

Democrats agree with part of that statement — but worry that the only effect the changes will have is to lock more voters out of an already-secure election system.

Read more: https://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/govt-and-politics/session-brought-substantial-changes-to-montanas-election-system/article_6327ba77-11dc-5737-b423-696f06269b02.html

ARCO ordered to pay $16.3M in East Helena smelter cleanup

Afederal court judge has ruled Atlantic Richfield Co. (ARCO) must pay Asarco $16.3 million for ongoing cleanup at the East Helena smelter facility that caused arsenic contamination to groundwater.

U.S. District Court Judge Dana L. Christensen ruled Wednesday that with $61,350,359 in costs so far, Asarco may recover $15,337,589.80 from Atlantic Richfield for the remediation plus $1 million for ARCO's failure to cooperate with government officials. He also said a 75% Asarco / 25% ARCO split on future costs was appropriate.

Attempts to reach ARCO on Friday were unsuccessful.

This case began nine years ago in 2012. Asarco, an Arizona-based smelting company, filed a contribution action to hold Atlantic Richfield liable for its equitable share of the costs that had been incurred for response action at the site.

It was done under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly known as Superfund.

Read more: https://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/arco-ordered-to-pay-16-3m-in-east-helena-smelter-cleanup/article_dbd3c86e-7583-5933-ad2b-fe2a5bdb8344.html

Mental health isn't officially part of Colorado's emergency response. Lawmakers want to change that.

At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Colorado mobilized its State Emergency Operations Center to respond to the public health emergency.

The SEOC — with the help of Federal Emergency Management Agency funding — worked with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to expand health care capacity, launch dozens of community testing sites and process countless COVID-19 tests, and administer and distribute millions of coronavirus vaccines.

Community mental health centers have also launched programs to help people deal with the psychological effects of the pandemic.

Some lawmakers and advocates took inspiration from those efforts and offered up a novel concept: state-funded public resources, built into local or statewide response to emergencies, that could help address Coloradans’ urgent mental health and substance use-related needs triggered by disease outbreaks, tragedies and natural disasters.

Sponsored by Reps. Lisa Cutter, D-Dakota Ridge, and Perry Will, R-New Castle, along with Sen. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, House Bill 21-1281 would create a community behavioral health disaster preparedness and response program.

Read more: https://coloradonewsline.com/2021/05/26/mental-health-isnt-officially-part-of-colorados-emergency-response-lawmakers-want-to-change-that/

Two New Hampshire school districts sued over mask mandates for students

Two school districts in southern New Hampshire are being sued by parents over their requirements that students must wear face masks inside of the schools.

Separate civil lawsuits were filed Tuesday against the Bedford School District and the Hollis-Brookline School District seeking injunctions to prohibit the schools from continuing their mask mandates.

Attorney Robert Fojo of Fojo Law is representing plaintiffs in both cases, and has also joined the Bedford case as a plaintiff himself.

“These parents are concerned that children will have to wear masks again next year, and they are just fed up with this requirement,” Fojo said on Thursday. “They are exhausted and exasperated and they want to put an end to it.”

Read more: https://www.unionleader.com/news/courts/two-nh-school-districts-sued-over-mask-mandates-for-students/article_b60c5f0f-cc07-579a-8c8b-e858a5075fda.html

Targeted by white supremacists, lawmaker seeks solidarity

Early last week, Rep. Manny Espitia’s friend – Nashua Alderman Tom Lopez – told him that white supremacists had left a tag on a community mural near the rail trail, in a neighborhood that is predominantly Latino.

The messages included “Keep New England White,” “Defend New England,” and “Death to Israel.”

Espitia’s first reaction was to publicly denounce those messages.

“I immediately posted,” he said. He wanted to tell people, “Hey, this is real. This is happening.”

In part, that’s because of an attitude in New Hampshire that racism doesn’t exist here, Espitia said. It’s an attitude that he has become familiar with since he moved to the state in 2015.

Read more: https://newhampshirebulletin.com/2021/05/25/we-cant-stand-for-this-targeted-by-white-supremacists-lawmaker-seeks-solidarity/

Dartmouth students say college's changes in mental health support aren't enough

HANOVER — Dartmouth College students are calling on school administrators to do more to support their mental health and to allow them to grieve following the death of a fourth student this academic year.

While they welcomed the changes the college announced May 21 to bolster the school’s mental health services, relax some COVID-19 precautions and give students some more academic flexibility, several said the changes didn’t go far enough.

“It’s just a small step forward,” said Jason Acosta Espinosa, a member of the Class of 2024. “It just does not mean enough to me.”

Espinosa, who traveled with a group of his classmates to New York last week to attend the burial of their friend Elizabeth Reimer, said he feels the college’s response to the deaths has been inadequate. He is among those asking Dartmouth officials to revisit the school’s medical leave policy, which they say discourages students from seeking mental health care or being honest about their mental state once they do, as well as to give students — especially those in the Class of 2024 — a break from academic pressures so they have time to mourn the loss of their classmates.

Read more: https://www.vnews.com/Dartmouth-community-reacts-to-ongoing-mental-health-challenges-40615365
(West Lebanon Valley News)
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