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in the news today (5/15/09)

May 15, 2009

Once again, there’s a lot of interesting stories in the news today, which I happened to have time to read at my new favourite lunch spot, Chez Machin.

One of today’s biggest headlines involves Nike. According to today’s edition of the Oregonian, Nike is planning on cutting a total of 1,750 workers, including 500 at their Oregon headquarters, even though the company itself has been relatively successful during the current recession.

As the article points out, “Nike’s sales have actually held up fairly well during the recession, growing consistently until its last quarter.” So why the huge layoff? Apparently, it’s part of a massive restructuring plan that’s been in the works since February.

“It isn’t necessarily an exercise about cost-cutting,” Dobson [Nike’s director of corporate-responsibility communications] said. “It’s about realigning the business for the future.”

That’s right. Despite the fact that Nike has fared relatively well throughout the current economic slump, the company is ever on the lookout for ways to cut costs — including laying off more than 7% of the 6,800 workers at Nike headquarters in Oregon — in order to realign the business for the future.

So just what will Nike do with the estimated $225 million in “savings”? Will it share that money with the rest of its employees who are lucky enough to keep their jobs? It’s possible, but not likely.

According to the article, “Nike hasn’t said what it plans to do with that savings, but Svezia [a New York investment analyst who follows the company for Susquehanna Financial Group] said the company may try to expand in fast-growing countries such as China or experiment with new retail strategies.” As Svezia put it, “Nike is a growth company. They need to spend to generate growth.”

Too bad that growth will come at the expense of Oregon workers, among others.

In other news, Speaker Pelosi continues to defend her previous denial that she was briefed about the use of waterboarding. According to the Huffington Post:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi bluntly accused the CIA on Thursday of misleading her and other lawmakers about its use of waterboarding during the Bush administration, escalating a controversy grown to include both political parties, the spy agency and the White House.

The CIA’s response: “It is not the policy of this agency to mislead the United States Congress.”

Of course not. The CIA would never do anything like that. But then again, it is Nacny Pelosi we’re talking about here. I don’t know who I distrust more.

Meanwhile, the LA Times reports that President Obama’s war-funding measure easily passed the House on Thursday despite the fact that 51 Democrats dissented.

Cheers to the 51 Democrats who stood up to President Obama and voted against his $97 billion war-funding measure — which will largely go to financing Obama’s strategy of adding 21,000 U.S. troops and trainers in Afghanistan and counterinsurgency training in Pakistan — and jeers to Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.) who voted for the measure while at the same time saying, “This is a bill that I have very little confidence in.”

Um, then don’t vote for it?

In local news, the Oregonian reports that a Portland woman who was injured during an arrest in 2006 won $18,500 in a settlement after she sued the Portland Police Bureau, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and the Cherry Park Condominium Association. According to the article:

Lyudmila Trivol had sued the Portland Police Bureau, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and the Cherry Park Condominium Association after the association’s president at the time allegedly directed that the family’s minivan be towed from its assigned parking space. The minivan’s wheels, according to Trivol’s side, were parked 6 inches into the bark dust.

An attorney for the condo association argued that it was more like 3 feet.

Trivol — a Ukrainian immigrant who speaks almost no English — felt targeted by what the suit describes as repeated, xenophobic harassment by the association and its president at the time, Michael Graybeal. Trivol’s husband had been arguing with the tow-truck driver and had sliced one of the truck’s tires with a knife.

According to the suit, Officer James Botaitis and Deputy Bret Burton forced Trivol to the ground by putting her in a hold, snapping a bone in her arm, on May 27, 2006. Trivol said the officers stepped on her back and pushed her face to the mud, as seven of her children and grandchildren watched.

Good for her. She deserves every penny of it after the police BROKE HER ARM while wrestling her to the ground.

In yet another documented case of police brutality, the police contended that she was “swearing, yelling and blocking the truck as she stood in the street in front of her home” and “charged at the tow-truck driver and kicked Burton in the shin as he lifted her.” But, as the story continues, “prosecutors dropped the case after her attorneys submitted dozens of photographs taken by a neighbor showing her giving police and the driver lots of space as she stood on the sidewalk.”

Fortunately, attorney Allen Peters was kind enough to send a letter to the Portland Police Bureau and the sheriff’s office reminding them that, “Law enforcement officers do not have a right to order people to be silent and to remove themselves from a public sidewalk, and it is outrageous that these particular officers believe otherwise.”

Finally, I read three interesting letters to the editor in today’s Oregonian. The first is by Erin Quinton highlighting the current contract status (or lack thereof) of Portland teachers:

I did it! I showed my solidarity. Did anyone notice? I managed to complete an entire week of teaching Kindergarten by working my “contract hours.” These are things that I found were impossible to accomplish while working to the rule:

Painting: Farewell! No time to set up or clean up.

New literacy and math centers each week with a variety of differentiated materials to meet each child’s learning needs: Ha!

Small group instruction during writing: Gone.

Clean tables? What germs? Boogers rule!

Replenish art supplies: The closet is on the other side of the building and by the time I pick up the key and collect materials half my prep time is gone.

Field trips: Goodbye. No time to make calls, arrange dates and details of trips, fill out the three-page application for scholarships for our Title I school, etc.

Biweekly classroom newsletter with cute pictures of kids: No can do.

Score writing assignments, create individual folders for individual skills support, fill out summer reading list for the library: Don’t even ask!

You get the idea. I implore the district to return to the bargaining table, be cognizant of what most of your teachers donate to their jobs and settle the current negotiations immediately.

The second is from Hunt Norris, a former banker, who argues for more borrower protection from outrageous bank fees:

When I became a banker in 1973, interstate banking was not legal. At that time, if you had an overdraft on your checking account, the fee per item was $3. I just received my checking account statement from Bank of America, which has raised the fee to $39 per item.

As the restrictions on interstate banking came down, I have observed an alarming increase in bank fees. I checked the CPI for August 1973 and compared it to the CPI for March 2009. This index has risen 371.6 percent over that time period. If overdraft fees had increased the same amount as the CPI, today those fees would be $14.15. I checked the minimum wage for 1973 and found that it was $1.60. Today the minimum wage is $7.25, a 353.1 percent increase.

During my 17 years as a banker, our branches in the poorest neighborhoods were the ones that generated the greatest income from overdraft fees, meaning the people paying the most in overdraft fees were the people who could least afford it. In 1973, at minimum wage, it took 1.9 hours of work to earn enough money to pay one overdraft fee. In 2009, it takes 5.4 hours of work to pay one overdraft fee. These fees are out of control.

Whether the reason is a reduction in competition due to interstate banking or some other reason, the free market is not keeping these fees in check. Governmental regulation, in my opinion, is necessary for the protection of the consumer.

And last but not least, the third is about the closing of the Oregon School for the Blind by Carlene Benson:

With all due respect to our legislators, and if I may be blunt, closing Oregon School for the Blind (“House panel votes to shut School for the Blind,” April 11) is a blatant land grab of the property and has nothing to do with the education of vision impaired children, other than the convenient fact that it’s already zoned for educational use for a new nursing school that Western Oregon University would like to share with the hospital.

It’s disappointing that none of the legislators and state administrators involved have the integrity to talk about what this is really all about. This is not about education. It’s always been about the property and it’s very disingenuous to pretend otherwise, especially at the expense of the blind children who will not get these services anywhere else if the Oregon School for the Blind is closed. They are at the school now because it’s already been decided through their Individual Education Plan process that their own districts can’t provide the needed services, and that the School for the Blind is the best place.

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