116-year-old Mexican pensioner too old for bank software — not allowed welfare check for 3 months


Mexico News Daily

❝ Born at the turn of the past century, Maria Félix is old enough to remember the Mexican Revolution – but too old to get the bank card needed to collect her monthly 1,200 pesos ($63) welfare payment. Félix turns 117 in July, according to her birth certificate, which local authorities recognise as authentic. That would put her in the ranks of the world’s oldest living people.

❝ She went three months without state support for poor elderly Mexicans after she was turned away from a branch of Citibanamex in the city of Guadalajara for being too old, said Miguel Castro, development secretary for the state of Jalisco. Welfare beneficiaries now need individual bank accounts because of new transparency rules, Castro said.

“They told me the limit was 110 years,” Félix said with a smile in the plant-filled courtyard of her small house in Guadalajara.

❝ Félix, who sells candies from a stand outside her home, got by on her modest sales but was delighted when Castro became aware of her case, delivering a cheque and an apology to her in person. “Sooner or later, God provides,” said Felix, waving a hand. “Here I am.“

In an emailed statement, Citibanamex, a unit of Citigroup Inc, said Félix’s age exceeded the “calibration limits” of its system and it was working to get her the bank card as soon as possible. It said it was adjusting its systems to avoid a repeat of the situation.

And some banks run their IT department with the help of someone’s out-of-work nephew rather than a qualified professional. My Canadian password manager issued a qualitatively new version of their software, yesterday. One significant bug was discovered. It was patched, this morning, with an update identified as Version xxx001. Definitely fewer employees than Citibank’s Citibanamex.

Nope. Solutions to problems like this come down to considering customer service more important than disturbing the slumbers of some beancounter.

Who is poor in the United States — An update

Recently, the Census Bureau released its annual report on poverty. The report showed that the official rate of poverty in 2015 was 13.5%, down 1.2 percentage points from 2014. Using the Current Population Survey March Supplement, the data used for the Census poverty report, we update our recent analysis to describe the characteristics of the poor in 2015 and changes in these characteristics over the last year.

The characteristics of individuals living in poverty did not change substantially from 2014 to 2015. Children still comprise more than a third of those living below poverty and students an additional 7 percent. A quarter of those living below the poverty threshold are in the labor force, either working or searching for work. Senior citizens, early retirees, the disabled, and caregivers constitute the remaining thirty percent of those living in poverty. Only 3 percent of those living in poverty fall outside of the groups just mentioned…

In order to address poverty, we must know who is poor and how the composition of who is poor is changing. This analysis describes who was living in poverty in 2015 and how that changed from the prior year. As with our analysis of poverty in 2014, this update suggests that when poor working-age adults are not employed full-time, they are often disabled, receiving education, or engaged in caregiving.

It takes a well-funded think tank like Brookings to roll out a PR piece like this without noting even though the United States is the wealthiest nation on the planet this is the best we come up with. Not a surprise for a nation which considers healthcare a privilege – instead of a right. But, then, that matches the opinion of many “important” opinion-makers predominant in our press.

Here’s a link to the Census Bureau report.

NM State workers falsified documents to deny food aid to poor

Five state employees testified in federal court Thursday that New Mexico Human Services Department officials falsified income information on emergency applications for people seeking welfare benefits, resulting in wrongly denied food assistance to the poorest citizens in the state.

At a daylong hearing in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Carmen Garza that stretched into the evening, the state workers said they sometimes entered false asset information on emergency requests for food assistance as a part of a state policy created just as Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration came under federal scrutiny for its high rates of denying emergency requests for aid.

The New Mexico Human Services Department is required to fulfill emergency food requests within seven days of receiving an application for such assistance. Yet the employees, testifying under oath, said they sometimes altered the requests to reflect that those applying for the assistance had up to $400 in assets that did not exist, leading to the applications being denied or delayed…

Margaret Vasquez-Padilla, a family assistance analyst with the Human Services Department who processes applications for benefits, said her superiors changed her case notes on an application for emergency food assistance by putting down that the applicant had $400.

“This has happened before,” she said when asked why she had copied her original case notes. “I needed to keep copies for myself to make sure I was not implicated.”

She and other employees said management with the department’s Income Support Division pressured them in April 2015 to make sure the state’s data on emergency food requests did not reflect that the department was failing to fulfill the requests within seven days.

The employees called themselves whistleblowers, saying they fear retaliation for speaking out about the practice.

Governor Susana Martinez is the delight of Establishment Republicans who want to run her as Vice-Presidential candidate alongside the Trumpet. Presumably to prove the GOP doesn’t wage war on Hispanics, women, who make up a significant portion of New Mexico’s poor.

In practice, her War on the Poor is all-inclusive. Republican class warfare doesn’t need much specialization. Political opportunism just naturally lends itself to discrimination.

Our middle class dwindles to less than the sum of the rich + the poor

In the age of rising income inequality, the task of preserving America’s middle class has been taken on by politicians across the ideological spectrum. A new report from Pew Research Center shows just how much the economic fortunes of this group have changed since the 1970s.

In every decade since then, the percentage of adults living in middle-income households has fallen, according to Pew, which is based in Washington. The share now stands at 50 percent, compared with 61 percent in 1971…

Our politicians have accomplished nothing other than gifting the nation to the rich.

Being a member of the middle-class has long been treated as an American badge of honor. However middle-income households have lost their majority status in the U.S, with the size of their counterparts on opposite ends of the income spectrum overtaking them in number.

Some 120.8 million adult Americans lived in middle-class households this year, according to Pew. That’s slightly less than the combined number of upper-income adults – 51 million – and those at the lower tier – 70.3 million…

Blacks are less likely to be part of the middle class than any other racial or ethnic group, the Pew report finds. Some 45 percent of black adults were in the middle-income tier, down 1 percentage point from 1971.

One positive note is that blacks are the only major racial group to see a decline over that time frame in their share of adults who are low-income, which is down to 43 percent from 48 percent. Still, that percentage is the highest of the ethnic groups, alongside Hispanics.

White Americans are the only racial group where a majority is in the middle class, though their share fell to 52 percent this year from 63 percent in 1971.

Almost half of aggregate earnings in the U.S. is now commanded by the wealthiest families, who are “are on the verge of holding more in total income than all other households combined,” Kochhar and Fry wrote.

The Republicans barely give lip service to this question. Unwilling to risk offending the class of owners they obey on every issue.

Many Democrats are merely cowards. Those willing to fight for us know the fight starts with their peers.

Yes, I know the characterizations are too much shorthand. But, when push comes to shove on any truly critical issue – whether it be war and peace, guns and butter, education and tax breaks for the rich – the fine gradations that give job security to TV talking heads and Wall Street analysts alike break down. Almost no one is willing to commit to the class of the many Americans who create and build the wealth of the few.

Venezuela’s housing mission on track to complete a million new homes by year-end

Venezuela’s housing mission has now constructed nearly 860,000 homes, according to new figures released Thursday.

“This is popular power,” said President Nicolas Maduro during a visit to a newly built housing complex in the state of Miranda…The president said the government is firmly on track to reach its goal of building 1 million homes by the end of the year…

Over 80,000 new homes have been completed in the past month alone, after the government announced plans to accelerate construction…

One of the Venezuelan government’s most popular social initiatives, the housing mission was first launched to provide shelter for people who lost their homes in devastating floods that hit the country in 2010. However, since then the mission has expanded to provide low-cost housing to the wider population, with poor families receiving priority. Units are generally provided fully furnished. The houses are offered either for free or at a low cost, depending on the means of the prospective owners.

In 2011, then-President Hugo Chavez explained that the mission would address the “social debt” left behind by former governments that failed to provide quality housing to all Venezuelans.

The current Maduro administration has vowed to expand the mission, aiming to provide low-cost housing to 40 percent of Venezuelans by the end of the decade.

The Ayn Rand flavor of libertarian conservatives have to harbor a particular hatred for this kind of social contract. Especially if it results in votes for the folks implementing the program.

Today is World Toilet Day and one billion people have nowhere to go


REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

Some 2.4 billion people around the world don’t have access to decent sanitation and more than a billion are forced to defecate in the open, risking disease and other dangers, according to the United Nations.

Launching its World Toilet Day campaign for Nov 19, the UN said poor sanitation increases the risk of illness and malnutrition, especially for children, and called for women and girls in particular to be offered safe, clean facilities.

“One out of three women around the world lack access to safe toilets,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement. “As a result they face disease, shame and potential violence when they seek a place to defecate.”

Even where there are toilets around the world, some hardly warrant the name, as illustrated by Reuters in a photo essay from around the world…

The UN says that while there is sufficient fresh water on the planet for everyone, “bad economics and poor infrastructure” mean that every year millions of people – most of them children – die from diseases linked to poor sanitation, unhygienic living conditions and lack of clean water supplies.

One of those times when it’s hard to speak of moral imperatives – living in a nation that thinks “moral imperatives” are code words for ancient bigotry and superstition run rampant.

Still, we are keepers of our sisters and brothers on this small ball of mud, 3rd from the sun. The good fortune – and accident of birth – we enjoy includes the responsibility to provide aid and comfort to all who share this ride through an infinite universe.

UPDATE: Here’s a Reuters photo essay to accompany this article. Worth seeing.

90-year-old activist chef busted again for feeding the homeless

abbott-busted

…A 90-year-old activist and two pastors from two churches in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., were arrested at a park on Sunday and then again on Wednesday for doing what they’ve been doing there for years: serving meals to the homeless.

On Oct. 22, the city’s commissioners passed a measure that requires feeding sites to be more than 500 feet away from each other and 500 feet from residential properties. Only one group is allowed to share food with the homeless per city block…

Arnold Abbott, the 90-year-old Fort Lauderdale activist, began offering food to the homeless living on the city’s beaches in the 1990s. Then he formed his own nonprofit, Love Thy Neighbor, and has continued to serve food twice weekly to the homeless at the beach and in a park.

“These are the poorest of the poor. They have nothing; they don’t have a roof over their heads,” Abbot said Wednesday. He added that a police officer ordered him to drop the plate of food he was holding, as if it were a weapon, the AP reported.

Obviously subversive. Actually living up to slogans like Love The Neighbor isn’t acceptable in Florida.

If convicted…Abbott could receive a sentence of 60 days in jail or a fine of $500.

“I know I will be arrested again, I’m prepared for that,” Abbott said. “I am my brother’s keeper, and what they are doing is just heartless. They are trying to sweep the poorest of the poor under the rug.”

Seriously, does anyone expect our politicians to support care for the poor?

Yeah, yeah, there will be the expected blather about trickle-down this and that; but, when push comes to shove, the Republican governor of Florida was just re-elected after he kept over a million poor Floridians from having access to Medicaid.

Dubai solution to traffic problems? Ban poor from owning cars!

BugattiDubaiPolice

In many ways modern, Dubai seems like some sort of science-fiction utopia. It emerged from the Middle East’s desert seemingly overnight with some of the largest buildings in the world and it has police supercars patrolling the streets. It’s not all perfect, of course, and like many cities, it’s facing a mushrooming traffic issue. But officials may not deal with this growing congestion problem in a traditional way: the emirate is reportedly considering banning the poor from owning cars.

Hussain Lootah, Director General of Dubai Municipality, reportedly suggested during a recent business forum in Germany that the emirate could impose motoring restrictions based on income. According to emirates-focused newspaper The National, “a salary limit scheme that would restrict car ownership to those earning above a certain monthly income” is among the options on the table. Lootah blames Dubai’s rapid rise in wealth for clogging the emirate’s roads with cars and dramatically increasing rush-hour traffic. “Everybody has their luxury life, but the capacity of our roads cannot take all of these cars without ownership laws,” he said in a speech…

…Dubai authorities are committed to reducing traffic congestion. They are also considering an increase on parking fees, fuel prices, toll road fees and insurance rates to further limit car ownership. As an alternative to driving, Dubai is attempting to improve its public transport system with a new tram system that began testing this week.

I hope no one passes this idea along to the Republican Party. They’ll be all over it like flies on dog poop. No doubt part of the platform in 2016 – endorsed by both Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.

Though the alternative offered to car ownership would probably be a discount on shoes.

Out-of-work law school grads do what they were trained to do. File suits against their law school!

Dozens of law graduates across the nation have joined class-action lawsuits alleging that law schools lured them in with misleading reports of their graduates’ success.

Instead of working in the law, some of the graduates were toiling at hourly jobs in department stores and restaurants and struggling to pay back more than $100,000 in loans used to finance their education. Others were in temporary or part-time legal positions…

Nearly 20 lawsuits — five of them against California schools — are being litigated at a time of dim employment prospects for lawyers. Much of the work once done by lawyers can now be done more quickly by computers.

Online services have made law libraries largely unnecessary, allowing corporations to do more work in-house. Software has sped the hunt for information needed in discovery and other legal tasks, and Web-based companies offer litigants legal documents and help in filling them out. Even after the economy improves, some experts believe the supply of lawyers will outstrip jobs for years to come…

New and inexperienced lawyers, unable to find jobs at law firms, are opening private practices, potentially putting clients at risk, according to a California bar report issued in February. To confront “serious issues of public protection,” a bar task force has recommended requiring practical experience as a condition of a license. The California Supreme Court would eventually have to approve the new rules…

But not everyone shares the dismal outlook. Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UC Irvine Law School, said his students are finding full-time jobs as lawyers even during this slow economy.

“It is not the same across all law schools when you look at employment prospects,” he said.

Rudy Hasl, dean of the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, said the retirement of baby boomers also would open up jobs.

Both deans said there was huge unmet demand for legal services for the poor and middle class, and the next generation of practitioners might be able to fill that demand. The state bar agrees.

“Across the country, the need for legal services among those who cannot pay or have limited ability to pay has never been higher,” the bar report said.

Which negates the obvious reason why many of these folks became lawyers. They watch reality TV and figured on having that S-class Mercedes and a trophy spouse on their arm at the country club cotillion in a couple of years. For them, pay is what it’s all about. I wouldn’t take a welding course unless I knew how real chances were I could use it. But, that’s because I always knew I had to earn a living.

I’ve been fortunate enough to know more than a couple of good-hearted lawyers. Those who pursued the craft with an aim to make life a little bit better for ordinary folks confronting a society that couldn’t care if you died of a biblical plague from rotten food.

The rest?

Pennsylvania judge defers voter discrimination law till after the election

A judge on Tuesday blocked Pennsylvania from requiring voters to show identification in November’s U.S. election, a decision that could influence turnout in a top electoral prize in the presidential race.

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson issued a partial preliminary injunction that halts the requirement that people show either a state driver’s license, government employee ID or a state non-driver ID card in order to vote on November 6…

Simpson, on orders from the state’s highest court to revisit his August ruling upholding the law, indicated the law could be implemented for future elections. He set a hearing for December 13 to schedule further proceedings in the case…

“This is a victory for the petitioners and people who will be able to vote on Election Day,” said Marian Schneider, one of the attorneys for the groups challenging the law.

National attention has been focused on the court fight over the law requiring voters to show a photo ID. The Republican-led Pennsylvania legislature passed it in March without a single Democratic vote.

Supporters say it is aimed at ensuring only those legally eligible to vote cast ballots. Critics say it is designed to keep minority voters, who typically vote Democratic, away from the polls. Similar laws have generated controversy in other states.

The state of Pennsylvania has acknowledged that there has never been a case of in-person voter fraud, according to court testimony.

That has been the case in every state where Republican governors, Republican-controlled state legislatures pushed this crap last-minute law through. They wasted taxpayer dollars trying to prove there was fraud and failed. They pressed ahead and passed laws premised on stopping fraud – that doesn’t exist. Truth remains – they’re trying to stop people from voting who generally vote for Democrats.

Given the history of the United States, a nation founded in discrimination that worked its way through the enfranchisement of women and Black folks – the nationwide effort by the Party-formerly-known-as-Republican is beneath contempt. And anyone who is fool enough to stand up in public and argue the phony case they try to make to justify this crime deserves as little respect as the hypocrites in charge of the campaign.