All of a sudden, it is the things you cannot buy that become worthy of envy. The old woman happily sunning herself on her balcony. The bopping shadow of a father carrying his newborn around in a sling at night. The sound of the family next door laughing over a game of Monopoly. And you never knew your neighbor could play the piano so beautifully! Domestic contentment has acquired the credentials of a currency. What other insights can we garner from this disaster? That there is a correlation between populist leaders and the time taken to accept reality. The extra days and weeks Trump, Johnson et al needed to bust the myth of their own exceptionalism have already cost lives. Meanwhile, as countries including the United States rush to introduce the biggest economic stimulus packages in their history, it is worth considering that if small government offers no cure in a pandemic, it may not be the healthiest option in ordinary times either. In the weeks and months ahead, normality will return to one country at a time. Goods will once again roll off assembly lines. Shops will reopen. The rat race will resume. But maybe, just maybe, if we take this opportunity for self-reflection, thi
The US president always was capricious and vengeful, but now that character flaw is a matter of life and death. State governors are crying out for federal help, not for themselves but for the people they represent: the nurses and doctors who need protective equipment and testing kits, the patients who need ventilators. But instead of leaping to their aid, Trump tells the governors it’s their responsibility, even though they have a fraction of the procurement power of the US government – adding that if they want help, they’d better grovel. “It’s a two-way street,” Trump said this week. “They have to treat us well.” Even when lives are on the line, his ego with its paper-thin skin comes first. Americans are paying the price for his lack of foresight, his closure of a pandemic task force for no better reason than it was established by Barack Obama – he hates anything with his predecessor’s name on it – and his failure to heed the warnings of a pandemic preparedness exercise, codenamed Crimson Contagion, that identified glaring gaps as recently as last October.
1.3+ million people infected and the president does not think we need those ventilators because they are too expensive.
Think about that!
Remember those stories of death panels?
Looks like Donald of Orange is the head of those panels.
No expense can be spared in making testing for the coronavirus available immediately in every country. Trillions of dollars must be invested internationally in testing regimes, the manufacture of protective clothing, the purchase of oxygen machines and other necessary technology, the construction of new hospitals and the expansion of existing hospital facilities.
From this standpoint we raise the following demands:
Accessible and universal testing: There is no way to combat the spread of coronavirus without testing that is accessible to all those who show symptoms. It is essential that testing be made available immediately throughout the United States and the entire world.
Free high–quality treatment: Stopping the spread of the coronavirus is impossible in a society where only those with money can see a doctor. In a country like the United States, where the average household cannot afford to pay cash for a $400 expense, providing free treatment is inseparable from controlling the spread of the disease.
Every country must immediately begin to provide free testing and treatment, and pay all medical costs associated with the coronavirus. Medical care is not a privilege, it is a right!
Paid sick leave for all workers: It is vital to ensure that workers do not feel pressured to work when they are sick. Corporations and governments must immediately begin providing paid sick leave for all employees.
Equality of care: In the United States, a vast and disproportionate share of medical resources is monopolized by the financial oligarchy. Reports abound of the V.I.P. emergency rooms in Manhattan and the Hamptons for the super-rich, and the massive emergency bunkers and private medical treatment centers being constructed by the oligarchs in their own mansions.
There can be no preferential treatment in combating this pandemic! Equality of care is not only a moral question, but an urgent social necessity. The private doctors of the rich and those engaged in vanity procedures must be immediately drafted to treat the general population. Access to care must be determined by necessity, not wealth. The rich have the right to the same treatment as anyone else—but no better.
Protect refugees, prisoners and the homeless: Around the world, millions of people are homeless, millions more are fleeing war and poverty, and countless others are imprisoned under conditions that make them vulnerable to infectious disease. Everything must be done to improve the conditions of prisoners, refugees and the homeless and provide these vulnerable populations with access to hygiene and the best quality medical care.
Stop price gouging: Medical supplies and sanitary products must be made available to households and medical workers, and all those profiting from the crisis should be held criminally liable.
Safe working conditions: Employers and the government must be responsible for providing all employees—from medical workers to factory, warehouse, retail and service workers—with a safe work environment.
The supervision of safety cannot be left to the employers. Workers should form rank-and-file committees to make sure that safety codes are being observed by the employers and measures are being taken to combat the spread of the disease. These committees will ensure that workers are not compelled to work in an unsafe environment and that coworkers who become ill receive the necessary treatment and support.
Support the ill and the quarantined: No one should fear that being designated and quarantined means neglect and ostracism. Workers should form neighborhood committees to ensure that those who are sick and quarantined are safe and have social support and the necessary food and supplies.
For international collaboration: US economic sanctions against Iran are causing severe medical shortages in a country with over 3,000 coronavirus cases, and the US political establishment has been waging a campaign to demonize Chinese scientists and doctors. All sanctions must immediately be lifted and all restrictions on international medical collaboration ended!
In responding to this dangerous disease, one principle must guide us: that human need is primary. Combating an epidemic that threatens millions of lives cannot be subordinated to considerations of private profit.
Okay, so let’s start with the superficial: My fingernails are getting so long I can hardly type. But they are acrylic and I can’t cut them. Ideas? I’m growing a beard. I’m caught up on “Better Things” (the best!) and “Homeland.” I’ve watched the 4 new episodes of the as- yet un-streamed “Grace & Frankie” and they’re hysterical. My hair needs cutting. Fortunately I’m all gray now so that part’s cool. I’m also super busy with the soon-to-be (this Friday) virtual Fire Drill Friday with Senator Markey. In case you’re interested, and I hope you are, here’s what we should support for the virus relief bailout. Please blast this out to your networks, and amplify on social media using #PeoplesBailout : Five Principles of Just COVID-19 Relief and Stimulus The COVID-19 pandemic demands swift and unprecedented action from the federal government. The depth of the crisis and the scope of the response mean that choices being made right now will shape our society for years, if not decades to come. As policymakers take steps to ensure immediate relief and long-term recovery, it is imperative that they consider the interrelated crises of wealth inequality, racism, and ecological decline, which were
Although he was exonerated, Dr Sirous Asgari remains locked up and tells the Guardian ‘inhumane’ jail is denying detainees masks and hand sanitizer
An Iranian scientist who was exonerated in a US sanctions trial but remains jailed by immigration authorities said the conditions in detention were filthy and overcrowded – and officials were doing little to prevent a deadly coronavirus outbreak.
Dr Sirous Asgari, a materials science and engineering professor, was acquitted in November on federal charges of stealing trade secrets related to his academic work with a university in Ohio. Although the US government lost its case on all charges, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) has kept him indefinitely detained since the trial. Now he’s speaking out about the “inhumane” treatment that could cost him his life.
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Yes, more on Cuban doctors! Jonathan Stuart (Loop St. Lucia) reports on Cuban medical personnel traveling to Cuba to help with the coronavirus …Over 100 Cuban doctors, nurses coming to St Lucia to fight coronavirus
A report by Saeed Saeed for The National. Click here to access the playlist. The song collection showcases reggae’s rich history and future Being …Stay home reggae playlist – The National
Presley Wilson and her four-year-old son, Raiden, outside of her mobile home in Pomona’s California Trailer Grove. (Presley Wilson)
Presley Wilson is a single mom of a four year-old, who lives in a travel trailer in Pomona. “It’s 26 feet, and with two people and two dogs. And so it’s packed,” she told me by phone earlier this week.
Wilson drives for Lyft as her main source of income. Her bank account rises and falls with her ability to drive — something she said she lost when the coronavirus arrived in California.
That’s because Wilson is chronically ill, with two syndromes affecting her blood circulation. They can also exacerbate other illnesses:“It’s dangerous for me to get sick because I get super, super sick,” she said.
She stopped driving in February, worried that picking up passengers at LAX might expose her to COVID-19.
No income meant she didn’t have rent for March. And so, on March 17, the “three day notice to pay rent or quit” arrived at Wilson’s door. It detailed the hole Wilson found herself in — she owned $625 in rent for this month, along with another $132.47 in electricity, water, sewer and trash bills.
Management at her trailer park — it’s called California Trailer Grove, although it’s mostly treeless — also slipped her a letter saying she owed a $50 late fee.
Wilson’s three day notice to pay or quit.
“It’s pretty damn scary, especially when you have a kid,” Wilson said.
Normally, she’d get help from a county program called Emergency Assistance to Prevent Eviction, which helps families on CalWORKs pay rent and utilities.
But the Department of Public Social Services had closed its offices the day before, and Wilson said she wasn’t able to reach anyone there.
And so she found herself self-isolating in her trailer, facing eviction during a pandemic, as a chronically ill person.
“At this point, I’m just waiting on the federal government and hoping,” Wilson said. “I mean, there’s millions of us in this state alone that are not going to be able to pay our rent.”
She said she was hoping to avoid homelessness; her next destination would be her car.
A CONFUSING SITUATION
The plight of renters like Wilson has been on the mind of policymakers across California and the nation as the coronavirus pandemic has taken hold. With the economy grinding to a halt, unemployment claims are surging, and many tenants will not have the money to make rent on April 1.
Several measures could give renters a temporary break — but the fast-changing environment is also causing confusion.
On March 16, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an order that authorized local governments to halt evictions. But the order simply allowed cities and counties to impose eviction moratoriums, and didn’t itself stop evictions anywhere.
Before the governor’s action, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti had issued an eviction moratorium in the city of L.A. for residential tenants “able to show an inability to pay rent due to circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic.” That meant that some other types of evictions, including for breaking the terms of a lease, could continue. Garcetti later followed up with moratoriums on commercial and Ellis Act evictions.
Some smaller jurisdictions, including the cities of Inglewood, Palm Springs, and El Monte, have imposed their own eviction-halting measures. And many others, including Presley Wilson’s home city of Pomona, have no moratorium.
Then there’s the court system.
In many places, eviction cases aren’t moving forward because courts are closed. That includes the Los Angeles Superior Court, where presiding judge Kevin C. Brazile suspended all civil, criminal and unlawful detainer trials until June 22, due to the pandemic.
The California Trailer Grove trailer park in Pomona. (Aaron Mendelson/LAist)
“Everything is getting continued, which is kind of a silver lining to this,” said Javier Beltran of the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, which represents low-income tenants. Beltran told me he still worries about “informal evictions” that don’t go through the court process.
He added that tenants who lose work in the informal economy — like street vendors, or workers paid under the table — will have a hard time proving their incomes were impacted by COVID-19.
At the same time, the coming weeks and months will put incredible pressure on landlords, said Daniel Yukelson of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles. The court closures, in particular, shift the balance of power.
“It creates basically open hunting season on landlords, you know, from tenants who just don’t want to pay their rent. There’s no leverage,” Yukelson said.
His group is telling members to work with their tenants, and even consider deferring rent. “We are stressing that owners be patient, and that they keep an open line of communication with renters,” he said, adding that renters and property owners will both need government assistance in the coming months.
If a renter doesn’t pay for 90 days, Yukelson said, “for a small owner, that could be devastating. They could easily and quickly be in default on their mortgage.”
The statewide picture could become clearer — if a bill introduced by San Francisco assemblymember Phil Ting becomes law. The measure seeks to create a statewide eviction moratorium. But it won’t be as simple as a vote: State legislators are currently on an unprecedented recess due to COVID-19.
On Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom also said his office was considering additional action on an eviction moratorium.
EVICTIONS DURING A CRISIS
Presley Wilson’s mobile home park is owned by entities connected to mega-landlords PAMA Management and Mike Nijjar, subjects of a KPCC/LAist investigation. Their real estate empire spans an estimated 16,000 units and over $1.3 billion in real estate across California.
Businesses connected to PAMA and Nijjar are known for fast and frequent evictions: KPCC/LAist tallied more than 4,300 eviction lockouts in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties between 2010 and 2018.
A late fee notice from the California Trailer Grove in March, 2020. The park is owned by an entity connected to Mike Nijjar and PAMA Management.
Mike Nijjar, Mobile Management Services, and PAMA Management’s attorneys, did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
PAMA’s eviction process is systematized: management handbooks reviewed by KPCC/LAist included an eviction calendar, showing when to file, and an eviction flowchart, laying out the process.
In 2012, PAMA used several law firms to file for approximately 140 evictions per month, former PAMA executive Everet Miller testified during one of many lawsuits the company has faced.
PAMA is aware of how high the stakes are for renters facing eviction.
“Many of our tenants live literally paycheck to paycheck; it doesn’t take much to push them over the edge,” Miller testified in 2011. Still, he said, “We can’t be aggressive and send out Guido with a baseball bat and break their kneecaps. The system is the system.”
In the wake of the previous recession, evictions jumped — not just at properties connected to PAMA, but all around Southern California. KPCC/LAist reviewed data on eviction lockouts, the very final step of the eviction process. In Los Angeles County, there have been more than 153,000 eviction lockouts since 2010, a period that covers the recovery from the Great Recession.
The late fee Presley Wilson faces is also a common practice at properties managed by or connected to PAMA. For tenants living at the bottom rung of the socioeconomic ladder, such fees can be crippling. “Fifty dollars is make or break in terms of feeding their family,” Grant Riley, a plaintiff’s attorney who has sued PAMA, said.
Across PAMA’s estimated 16,000 units, late fees could add up to more than a million dollars per year.
Health and safety issues are also common at PAMA properties. The California Trailer Grove experienced a typhus outbreak in 2015, the first outbreak of the medieval disease in L.A. County in six years.
Since the outbreak, the state regulators twice suspended PAMA Management’s permit to operate the Pomona park, citing electrical hazards and sewage leaks.
GEARING UP FOR APRIL
On the phone in her mobile home, Presley Wilson was relieved when I told her that courts aren’t currently moving forward on eviction cases.
“I definitely can breathe a little easier,” she said.
On the 23rd, Wilson received a letter from her management company. “We understand some of you may experience financial challenges due to the impact of COVID-19,” it reads. The letter said that tenants who couldn’t pay rent due to the virus might be granted relief, though it does not go into detail.
Wilsomn planned to write the company about rent relief; she wasn’t holding out hope.
After I initially talked to Wilson, I contacted L.A. County’s Department of Public Social Services to ask about her situation with Emergency Assistance to Prevent Eviction. Wilson said she received a call from a social worker later that day. She now hopes to receive support to help pay her March rent.
But even if that happens, April 1st is right around the corner. And Wilson said that in just a few days, many of her neighbors will be in trouble.
“None of us are going to be able to come up with that money by then. I know, definitely, I won’t be able to,” Wilson said. “No way.”