Amazon makes Bezos rich, ruins workers’ health

This 30 November 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Investigation raises alarm about handling of worker fatality at Indiana Amazon facility

Our research into never-before-public injury records from 23 Amazon warehouses across the country indicates most had injury rates higher than the industry average. One particular incident in Indiana raises questions about how regulators and government officials deal with potential safety violations at the global company. Will Evans of Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting reports.

By Pete Lazenby in Britain:

Friday, January 31, 2020

Amazon made its £10bn profit last year off the back of its workers’ health, safety and pay, union says

Over the last three years, ambulances have been called to Amazon warehouses 600 times to deal with emergencies including broken bones, and workers collapsing

PROFITEERING online retailer Amazon was accused today of making more than £10 billion last year off the back of its workers’ health, safety, pay and working conditions.

Figures released by the company show that the firm, which runs a string of giant warehouses across Britain, made £10.7 billion in global profits over the whole of 2019.

Amazon’s profits for the fourth quarter of 2019 were £3.1bn in the final three months of the year.

GMB national officer Mick Rix said: “Amazon’s profits come at a heavy cost.

Conditions at the company’s warehouses are appalling. Workers are breaking bones, being knocked unconscious, being taken away in ambulances.

“It’s time for Amazon to take its social responsibilities seriously, reinvest its profits in creating a safe environment, and listen to the independent voice of its workers who are crying out for change.”

GMB has also accused the company of using tax loopholes to avoid paying an estimated £89 million in corporation tax.

As reported in the Morning Star, working conditions in Amazon’s warehouses are appalling.

Over the last three years, ambulances have been called to Amazon warehouses 600 times to deal with emergencies including broken bones, and workers collapsing.

The company refuses to recognise trade unions, but general union GMB has recruited workers at the firm who have given graphic reports on shocking working conditions, low wages and insecurity of employment.

Research carried out by the TUC revealed last year that Amazon employees would have to work for five weeks to receive the same amount in pay that the company’s boss Jeff Bezos is paid in one second.

2019 American barred owl nest webcam highlights

This 14 August 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

2019 Barred Owl Cam Season Highlights

Relive all the wonderful memories from the 2019 Wild Birds Unlimited Barred Owl cam!

Classic hooting calls announced the return of the owls to their rural Indiana nest box. “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?”

In the following days, two white eggs appeared beneath the female. The male played the role of hunter while his mate tended to the eggs. As opportunistic predators, Barred Owls eat everything from small mammals to aquatic prey, like crayfish.

Incubation continued for 33 days before the eggs started hatching. The female quickly assumed her role as attentive mother to her downy duo.

Thanks to committed parents and plenty of food, “Fluff” and “Puff” began to grow and grow and grow.

At five weeks old, they were ready to leave the nest box with a bit of encouragement. “Fluff” fledged with confidence, while “Puff” was a bit reluctant. Good luck to our favorite owl family on the next stage! Thanks for watching and learning with us in 2019. See you next year!

United States nurse jailed in debtors’ prison

Melissa Latronica with her daughter, outside Porter County Jail, where she spent three days

By George Marlowe in the USA:

“I was treated like a caged animal”

Single mother and healthcare worker jailed for three days in Indiana over unpaid ambulance bill

1 March 2019

Melissa Latronica is a 30-year-old healthcare worker and single mother of three who lives in La Porte, Indiana, 65 miles southeast of Chicago. On February 11, Melissa was pulled over by police in a traffic stop. She was then arrested and jailed for three days over an unpaid ambulance bill.

“I was on my way to turn in some important paperwork that would let me keep my home”, she told the World Socialist Web Site. She was heading to a county agency in nearby Valparaiso, Indiana.

“A block away from that office, I was stopped at an intersection by a police officer for forgetting to put my 2019 sticker on.” Melissa handed the officer her license and apologized for not having affixed her vehicle sticker, which happens to many drivers in the beginning of the year. Ironically, the sticker happened to be inside her car.

While the officer ran her license, Melissa waited inside her car for a long time and grew increasingly nervous. Another police car pulled up eventually. She had no idea what the problem was as she had no felonies on her record.

The police officer returned to Melissa’s car and said to her complete astonishment, “Ma’am I’m going to need you to step out of the vehicle.” The officer told her that there was a warrant for her arrest. She had apparently failed to appear in court in a 2014 civil case concerning an unpaid ambulance bill.

“I was cuffed behind my van, my vehicle was impounded, and I pleaded to them just let me turn in this paperwork, so I didn’t lose my home,” she said. The office was just down the road.

The officer did not look her in the eye and replied indifferently, “Sorry, Ma’am.”

“My kids need me to take them to school,” she pleaded to the officer. “I had no way to afford to get my van back on my own and I couldn’t afford the $1,500 bond.” He replied, “You have three phone calls.”

Dehumanized in jail

Melissa Latronica was terrified of being jailed. She was taken to Porter County Jail on February 11. “I had never been in a jail cell,” she recalled. “All of my things were confiscated as my mugshot was taken after the next poor soul that wound up in there.

“Soon, I was in a cell fit for a murderer,” she added. “I would be there for three days until a snowstorm passed and my parents could afford to get me out.”

For the next three days, Melissa faced abominable and dehumanizing conditions. She recalled with anger, “I slept on a concrete floor, in a tiny room with four concrete walls, on a disgusting ratty mat next to a musty water drain that was more like a sewer, while being treated like a dog by staff members, served food through a door hole and open showered with actual felons at midnight.”

There was no soap available to wash her hands after using the toilets, which anyone could watch as she openly shared it with her cell mate.

“I was treated like a felon,” she said, “when this was supposed be a ‘civil’ case. There was no TV, no cards, no vending machine—nothing to do but stare at four walls and listen to the catcalls from felons down the hall and vomiting from people going through drug withdrawals.

“It was a very unpleasant experience,” she added. “I really had a hard time coping with some of the officers treating me like I was subhuman. Being in an environment where you get treated like a caged animal is really degrading.

“All of this happened because I failed to pay off an ambulance bill from 2014.”

A heart condition

In July 2014, Melissa Latronica was eight months pregnant and developed a heart problem. “I was sitting on my bed and started to feel dizzy,” she said. “It didn’t seem to be a big deal at first, but then I started to feel my heart pumping faster and faster, and soon I was gasping for air.”

She could not talk but mustered up the strength to walk. “I had to dizzily enter the kitchen,” she recalled, “where my then-husband and children were watching TV, to try to say I needed an ambulance, but I didn’t need to say it. I was gasping for air, for my survival, and soon found myself on the living room floor.”

Her husband at the time called 911 and emergency services. “I couldn’t tell time between when I hit the ground,” she said, “to when the paramedics were shoving oxygen masks on my face, saying ‘Tachycardia—over 300—hurry!’ to when I was looking at the ambulance ceiling, to when I was recovering with Benadryl and IVs on the emergency room bed.”

“This is the beginning of how I wound up in jail five years later,” she added with anger.

Melissa recovered from her heart condition in 2014 but incurred a $3,000 ambulance bill. She never received these bills because they were likely sent to an older address. The unpaid bills were then sent to a collection agency which eventually took her unpaid debt to court. The court then sent notices to summon her to pay her debt.

“I don’t know where the summons papers are,” she said on why she did not appear in court. “If I got them or if they were sent to my old address,” she does not know. “But I intend to find out what happened. I was blindsided by my arrest. Completely blindsided.”

Her failure to appear resulted in a bench warrant for her arrest.

A bureaucratic nightmare

Dawn Anderson tried to get her daughter Melissa out of jail immediately. Dawn was a registered nurse for 21 years and spent most of her life raising Melissa while dealing with a disability—she lost both of her legs to diabetes. Her life, like many workers who face crippling healthcare costs, has been one of constant struggle and medical debt from countless surgeries related to her own illnesses.

Dawn Anderson, Melissa's mother (left), and Melissa's father (right)

“When I found out my daughter was in jail,” Dawn noted, “I called the jail and found out through the automated system she was in jail for ‘failure to appear’ and that her bond was $1,569.”

“I called the Portage City Clerk,” she added, “and explained how Melissa was in jail for an ambulance bill from when she was pregnant and how silly and stupid.” She was confounded that a working-class single mother of three children could be arrested and put into jail over an unpaid bill.

She spoke to a clerk who found Melissa’s case, but not her ambulance bill. What followed next was a Kafkaesque nightmare for Dawn. She was transferred from the Clerk’s office to the Porter County Government building, and then to a tax collections department. The collections department told her that they did not deal with ambulance bills.

After being bounced around, she was finally able to reach the collections office that was hunting her daughter for the unpaid bill. The woman at the office took some time to find the ambulance bill. After finally finding it, she told Dawn, “Your daughter disregarded three notices to appear in court and a warrant was issued for her arrest back in Dec 2016.”

The operator told Dawn that if she paid $400, the court would release the bench warrant and she would be free. Dawn paid the $400 right away thinking her daughter would be released the very same day.

Ten minutes later, the office called her back to let her know that the judge and the clerk had left but the release would happen first thing in the morning. In other words, Melissa had to spend a night in jail.

“I was furious,” she said, “but she told me it was out of her hands until the judge signed for release.” The next day the court was delayed for more than two hours because of a snowstorm. Melissa would end up spending another night in jail.

Finally, on the third day, Melissa’s dad, a construction worker, came to pick her up after even more delays. He had to take her to get her car from the impound lot and pay $246. Her father has seen his share of tragedy: he got hit by a semi-truck while working. He has used his workman’s compensation to help Melissa with her costs.

Dawn pleaded with the collections office to erase her debt. “My daughter spent three days in jail without her kids over an ambulance bill,” she said. Was this not enough to have her debt erased? “Jail doesn’t count,” was their reply.

The collections office told her that Melissa would still have to pay at least $1,200 of her outstanding debt. Dawn was told that her daughter would have to prove to the court that she could not pay her debt.

Poverty in La Porte, Indiana

The nightmare Melissa Latronica has endured reflects the horrific conditions workers face daily in the United States, with immense wealth accumulated at the top by billionaires and the financial aristocracy while millions endure poverty and hardship.

The town of La Porte, Indiana, where Melissa lives is just a 40-minute drive east of the economically devastated city of Gary, Indiana.

The Northwest Indiana region, including Gary, was once a national and international center of steel production and manufacturing. Steelworkers carried out fierce strikes, going back to 1919, against the major steel companies to fight for higher living standards. By the 1970s, like other parts of the industrial “Rust Belt”, the steel companies carried out thousands of layoffs and created depression-like conditions in cities across the country. Workers’ lives were destroyed, and the city remains ruined to this day.

Melissa with her daughter

Conditions in nearby La Porte are not any better for workers. A 2018 United Way study called the Indiana ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) report found that 55 percent of households in the city of nearly 22,000 residents are struggling just to meet basic needs. According to the study, more than 50 percent struggle to pay for housing, food, healthcare, childcare and transportation costs.

Melissa makes a poverty wage of $10 an hour as a certified nurse assistant, one of the top ten most dangerous jobs in the United States, according to a Forbes report. The average median salary for a nursing assistant is around $25,000. Nursing assistants endure the stresses of understaffing, overtime, long shifts, exposure to dangerous illnesses, radiation and dangerous medical devices.

“As a healthcare worker, you are often exhausted from lifting and running around assisting patients for 12 to 16 hours on end,” Melissa said. “It takes a lot to get up in the morning after a shift like that, but as a mom, you do what you need to do for your kids. My ex-husband and I share joint custody, so I’m not raising them entirely on my own like some mothers have to do.”

Throughout Indiana, more than 25 percent of households constitute ALICE households who struggle to make ends meet. More than 30 percent cannot meet basic needs and 75 percent of jobs pay less than $15 an hour. Conditions for healthcare workers, steel workers, autoworkers, logistics workers and others in the low-wage and temporary job sectors are increasingly intolerable and often devastating.

Melissa’s arrest made life even more difficult for her family. Being jailed took time away from her children who were supposed to be with her on her custody days. “My ex-husband had to scramble and find a way for my kids to get to school while he worked and had to take off work,” she said.

The criminalization of debt in America

Melissa Latronica’s arrest and her dehumanizing treatment in jail for a healthcare emergency bill highlights the increasing criminalization of poverty and the growth of the social crisis in the United States. The phenomenon of debtors’ prisons, once thought to be a Dickensian nightmare of the past that was officially outlawed by Congress in 1833, at least on paper, is again on the rise.

Debtors' prisons in the USA

Predatory collection agencies have colluded with the courts to punish the working class for their inability to pay onerous debts. A recent report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that more than 77 million Americans have had their debts turned over to the private debt collection industry.

The ACLU report is a damning indictment of conditions in more than 44 states in which the justice system criminalizes poverty. Judges, acting on the request of various collections agencies, have issued bench warrants for impoverished workers for various kinds of unpaid debts—including medical bills, student loans, lagging car payments, unpaid rent and utility bills and more.

While the warrants issued are considered civil warrants, not criminal, the incarceration of workers cruelly turns their lives upside down and devastates numerous households who have unbearable levels of debt. The warrants do not cover unpaid debts but the failure to appear in court. Such civil warrants on a worker’s record can leave them vulnerable to arrest if they are targeted in a warrant sweep, including in traffic violations such as the one that Melissa faced. Tens of thousands of such warrants are issued every year, for amounts as small as $28, creating daily horrors in the lives of the working class.

According to the ACLU, more than 6,000 private debt collection agencies operate in the United States collecting billions of dollars. They are hired by businesses and organizations of all sorts, including hospitals that collect unpaid medical debts. In turn, the debt collection companies have contracts with more than 200 district attorneys across the country to utilize prosecutors to demand payments. More than a million workers get letters every year that warn them they could face jail time if debts, for payments as low as $2, are not repaid. A portion of the fees processed by the debt collection companies are funneled back into the pockets of district attorneys.

The debt collection agencies often file hundreds of lawsuits every day in small-claims courts without evidence that debts are actually owed. Those arrested face even more fees—including pre-conviction fees, sentencing fees, incarceration fees, parole fees—and enter into a downward spiral from jail and into greater poverty.

According to the ACLU report, fewer than 2 percent of defendants have legal representation, effectively eviscerating due process for impoverished workers. Such practices are unconstitutional and violate the Fourteenth Amendment, which states that due process and equal protection under the law are fundamental rights.

The failure of capitalism

“Growing up watching my mom get screwed with medical debt, having excessive college debt, and having a professional healthcare job that pays just over minimum wage, I truly feel we need to reform predatory capitalism into sustainable practices,” Melissa said.

“Coercing people into paying a debt they had no choice in taking on is unethical,” she added. “This is what our healthcare system is fundamentally doing. It’s taking advantage of sick people and milking their pockets. Healthcare should be a service available to all.

“It’s truly sad that so many people wind up in an endless sea of debt due to circumstances out of their control. Putting a price tag on a human’s life used to be referred to as slavery. I think capitalism has turned into a monster of sorts that has people trying to climb out of situations they had no choice to be in.”

The conditions workers like Melissa face are above all a daily reflection of the complete failure and breakdown of capitalism in the United States and globally. No worker should incur thousands of dollars in debt for healthcare emergencies, let alone face arrest for an inability to pay those bills. The predatory practices of debt collection companies and their collusion with the legal system points to a world turned upside down—an unjust world that demands such a rotten system governed by private profit be replaced by one that meets social needs, that is a socialist society.

Melissa’s story has generated an outpouring of response from workers around the world. Contribute to her GoFundMe account here to help cover her ambulance bill and other other costs she has incurred.

British woman jailed for a £4,742 council tax debt she could not pay: here.

American teacher prevents massacre with basketball, not with gun

This video from the USA says about itself:

Teacher Jason Seaman called a hero for stopping school shooter

25 May 2018

The mother of the teacher credited with helping to stop a school shooting at Noblesville West Middle School says her son, Jason Seaman, was shot three times. Seaman is a science teacher at the school.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Shooting at American school stopped quickly by heroic teacher

A shooting yesterday at a school in the American town of Noblesville [in Indiana], which injured two people, was so ‘small’ that quite a few media in the US did not even pay attention to it. The Washington Post notes in a distressed tone how ‘normal’ it has become apparently that students open fire on classmates. Bizarre detail: without the heroic actions of the 29-year-old teacher Jason Seaman, the shooting probably would have been a massacre. …

How did this heroic teacher prevent a bloodbath? Surely, because he had a gun; like President Trump and the National Rifle Association want to be mandatory for teachers.

Not so soon. If the teacher would have had a gun, then there would have been a panic causing crossfire which might have killed and/or injured far more people than the two persons injured now.

Teacher Jason Seaman prevented mass murder with an object far less lethal, but maybe even more ‘American’ than a gun.

[According to] students of the Noblesville West Middle School, physics and chemistry teacher Seaman challenged the attacker. He threw a basketball at the boy, ran towards him, knocked a gun from his hand and tackled him, says a classmate of the shooter to ABC News. One of the pupils was injured, but without Seaman’s actions it would certainly have been more, according to his statement.

Teacher Seaman was struck three times during his intervention, his mother wrote on Facebook. According to the police, he is out of danger. The student who was struck, a girl, is in worse shape. She is in a critical condition in the hospital.

The shooting follows a week after a student at a high school in Texas killed eight fellow students and two teachers. Last February, seventeen people were shot dead at a school in Parkland, Florida. It unleashed an international student protest against armed violence: MarchForOurLives.

Baby barred owl born, video

This video from the USA says about itself:

On April 6th around 9 P.M., the Barred Owl female left the nest box and revealed the first Barred Owl hatchling! The young chick, covered in white natal down, can be seen moving around the bottom of the nest box while the adults caterwaul in the distance. Assuming this was the egg that was laid on March 5th (the first of the clutch), it took 32 days for the chick to hatch—on the long side of a typical Barred Owl incubation period that ranges between 28–33 days. Keep watch as Egg #2 could hatch at any moment!

There are three eggs in the nest, expected to begin hatching around April 5. Thanks for watching!

Watch live here.

Jim Carpenter, President and CEO of Wild Birds Unlimited, has hosted a camera-equipped owl box in his wooded backyard in Zionsville, Indiana, since 1999. Set more than 30 feet high against the trunk of a pignut hickory tree, this Barred Owl box was first occupied in 2006. Since then, the box has hosted several nests, including successful attempts since 2013.

Indiana, USA barred owl nest webcam

This April 2016 video shows there were owlets in the Indiana, USA barred owl nest then.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA today:

Deep in the suburban wilds of central Indiana, the Wild Birds Unlimited Barred Owls have returned for a fourth year on cam. Nestled beneath the down feathers of the female owl are three white eggs, with hatching likely to happen around the end of the first week of April. For the last three years, the owls have had great success raising their young, fledging a total of eight owlets from eight eggs. Watch cam.

What to watch for: During the day you can listen to the sounds of spring arrive to the forests as the female incubates her eggs. At night, watch as the male owl delivers a steady stream of interesting prey items (like this crayfish) to the nest box and listen for the owls’ classic “whoo-cooks-for-you?” hooting duets. After hatching, it takes only 4 to 5 weeks for the owlets to transform from close-eyed, downy fluffballs to fierce, sometimes clumsy youngsters before setting out to explore the world.

Share what you see and hear with us on the cam‘s Twitter feed, @WBU_Owls, and join us in learning more about these secretive and adaptable predators.

Jewish graves vandalized in Indiana, USA

Jewish gravestone, with the German word 'Jude' daubed on it

From the Jewish Telegraph Agency in the USA:

3 suspects arrested in vandalism of Jewish grandparents’ gravestone in Indiana

January 5, 2017 9:33am

Three people have been arrested in connection with the vandalism of the headstone of a Jewish couple buried in the cemetery of a small Indiana town.

An anonymous tip to police led to the arrests on Tuesday night, according to local news reports in Scottsburg.

Angeliquca Tompkins, 19, and Matthew Terry, 20, are charged with criminal mischief and criminal trespassing; they are being held in the county jail. The third suspect was a female juvenile who was released to the custody of her parents.

The words “F***ing Jew” were spray-painted in white across the back of the double headstone, on top of the large Jewish star, in the Scottsburg Cemetery, one of the few headstones with a Jewish name on it. Two other headstones in the cemetery were later discovered vandalized.

On Monday, a grandson of the couple posted a photo of the headstone on Facebook and offered a cash reward for any information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the attack. The photo has been liked more than 16,000 times and shared more than 40,000 times.

Jarin Gladstein told a local news station: “The fact that words spread fast, obviously from Facebook, but it’s awesome that we got together and somebody obviously spilled the guts and said who it was, which I appreciate because I feel like that should pay for what they’ve done.”

Gladstein prior to the arrests had told the local media that he was “livid, upset, sick,” over the desecration.

The vandalized Gladstein gravestone

Law enforcement officials announced Friday that they seized 83 guns, 10,000 rounds of ammunition, and a helmet with a Nazi insignia from the home of a Lexington, Massachusetts man facing civil rights charges, the Boston Globe reported: here.

Bomb Threats Reported at Jewish Centers in Four U.S. States: here.

A score of Jewish centers in the Eastern U.S. faced false bomb threats Monday.

JEWISH CENTERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY ARE RECEIVING BOMB THREATS More than 20 were reported on Wednesday alone. [Willa Frej and Andy Campbell, HuffPost]

JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY HIT WITH ANOTHER WAVE OF BOMB THREATS Forcing evacuations in ten states Monday. There have been 67 incidents at 56 Jewish community centers in 27 states and one Canadian province since the start of 2017. Vandals also toppled over 100 headstones at a prominent Jewish cemetery in St. Louis. Ivanka Trump, who converted to Judaism, tweeted about the incidents Monday, and not all of Twitter was pleased. [HuffPost]

Poisoned water in the USA

This video from the USA says about itself:

5 January 2017

TYT EXCLUSIVE: Lead Tests From East Chicago Are In.

This video from the USA says about itself:

Indiana Woman Was Healthy…Until Moving Into Lead Haven

5 January 2017

TYT Politics Reporter Jordan Chariton spoke with Akeesha Daniels, an East Chicago, Indiana resident and single mother, about her struggles trying to find new housing after her and other residents were told they would have to leave the West Calumet Complex.

This video from the USA says about itself:

5 January 2017

TYT Politics Reporter Jordan Chariton spoke with Byron Duke Florence, a former NFL wide receiver and kick returner, who was diagnosed with bone cancer in February, 2016—several months after it was revealed there was lead contamination in his hometown of East Chicago, Indiana.

‘Sanders more electable anti-Trump candidate than Hillary Clinton’

This video from the USA says about itself:

Is Sanders the Better Candidate to Defeat Trump?

4 May 2016

Robert McChesney analyses the Indiana primary outcomes and the election trajectory for the candidates and the voters.

DONALD TRUMP’S ATTACK LINES FOR HILLARY CLINTON From Bill Clinton’s infidelities to Benghazi, Trump will attempt to portray Hillary Clinton as “fundamentally corrupt.” The New York Times takes a look at his “psychological warfare tactics.” [NYT]

The emergence of Donald Trump as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee marks a dangerous watershed for US and world politics. The selection of a fascistic demagogue as the candidate of one of the two major capitalist parties is indisputable proof of the advanced stage of the putrefaction of American democracy. The impending nomination of Trump means that a substantial section of the American ruling class has concluded that the defense of its interests requires massive political repression within the United States and war against competitors and enemies beyond its borders: here.

Why do millennials like Bernie Sanders so much? I love that this is a mystery to Washington. It’s the authenticity, stupid. You can’t fake a 40 year record. This is a generation that grew up in a time when entertainment and media is based on authenticity and not the fakeness of television. Like Diogenes, when millennials went on their pursuit to find the one honest man in politics, it was obvious that man was Bernie Sanders: here.

When 25-year-old Cassandra McWade got in a car accident on a highway in Asheville, North Carolina, on Monday, Ken Shupe drove his tow truck to the scene. But when he saw that McWade, who has disabilities, had Bernie Sanders signs on her Toyota Camry, he decided he wouldn’t help…. Shupe said he initially supported Republican presidential contenders Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee. But now that Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Shupe is going to support him “110 percent,” he said: here.

Trump and women: here.