March 30, 2012 Leave a comment
Dra. Martha Andrea Castro Noriega
March 30, 2012 Leave a comment
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Thursday that he will call for layoffs of city employees as part of the budget he proposes next month.
“We’re going to lay off a large number of employees. I’m not going to say how many,” he told an audience at the City Administrative Officer Investors Conference, at the Grammy Museum in downtown’s L.A. Live complex.
The announcement comes weeks after the city’s five-member employee bargaining committee, which includes Villaraiogsa, asked city unions to give up raises that are scheduled for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Those unions refused to reopen contract talks.
Since the recession began, more than 300 city workers have been laid off and thousands more have retired or been transferred to agencies not affected by the budget crisis, such as the Department of Water and Power. The city now faces a $220-million budget shortfall.
Villaraigosa said his budget, which comes out April 20, will also include plans for a long-term lease of city parking garages — a proposal rejected by the City Council in the past. He also promised to seek pension reforms by pushing for a higher retirement age for city workers.
“I’ve said to our employees,” the mayor continued, “either we get it through the City Council … or I’m going to put an initiative on the ballot the way they’ve done in San Jose, the way they’ve already done in San Diego and the way they’re gonna do in cities around the country.”
March 29, 2012 Leave a comment
“Thanks Ben Bernanke, now, even a run down old motel room costs $29 plus tax. I wouldn’t even be able to call a cellphone or an 800 number according to the lady. How can I report something to the government from the room? They advertise WIFI, but there’s none really. The motel is owned by foreigners and Americans work for them at minimum wage. Don’t stay at this place unless you absolutely have to (located in Kingman AZ). It would be more pleasant to sleep out on the ground on BLM land. Housing sucks, apartments suck, motels suck, mcdonalds suck, everything is beginning to suck in America.” –George4Title
February 15, 2012 Leave a comment
Some job reductions are coming to Coventry Health Care’s Springfield office, but the company is not releasing many details.
News-Leader calls to the Springfield office of the nationwide insurance provider were directed to the company’s Bethesda, Md., corporate headquarters.
Matthew Eyles, Coventry’s vice president of public affairs and policy, said the Springfield office is not closing. But he indicated some local jobs would be affected.
“Coventry has a strong track record of providing exceptional service to Missourians in our health plans, which is reflected in our growing Missouri membership,” Eyles said in an email. “But, in order to continue providing value to our customers and meet the economic challenges of health reform, we are making changes in Springfield that will affect some of our employees.”
Eyles declined to say how many of the approximately 140 jobs in the Springfield office would be affected.
“Coventry is proud to be in Springfield and the work our employees do there, and we will continue to have a Springfield presence,” Eyles added. “ If we succeed in pursuing some new business opportunities, we hope to be able to grow again in Springfield soon.”
In July 2010, Coventry Health Care bought Mercy Health Plans, a subsidiary of the Sisters of Mercy Health System with about 420 employees in Missouri. According to Coventry’s 2010 annual report, it serves more than 5 million customers in all 50 states.
February 14, 2012 Leave a comment
Just over two years after announcing plans to double its local workforce, Frontier Airlines said Monday it will cut about 450 of its roughly 1,000 employees in Milwaukee.
The move comes as Frontier has steadily lost market share at Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport since taking over Midwest Airlines in 2009.
Frontier’s parent company, Indianapolis-based Republic Airways Holdings, is seeking a buyer for the money-losing carrier.
The swift decline of Denver-based Frontier happens as the economy takes longer than expected to recover, and Frontier faces strong competition in both Denver and Milwaukee, its two hubs.
At Denver International Airport, Frontier is being squeezed by United Airlines and Southwest Airlines, said Scott Hamilton, who operates Leeham Co., an aviation industry consulting firm based in Issaquah, Wash.
At Mitchell International Air port, Southwest and AirTran Airways, both low-fare carriers, have been taking market share from Frontier.
At the very least, Frontier’s Milwaukee operations will be greatly diminished, which Hamilton said will likely bring increased airfares for Milwaukee travelers.
Frontier, in a filing with the state Department of Workforce Development, said up to 446 Milwaukee-area employees will be affected by the job cuts, to occur between April 15 and April 30.
About 230 employees are flight crew members who will be reassigned to bases outside Milwaukee, the filing said.
Some of the flight crews don’t live in the Milwaukee area, commuting here via flights from around the country. But other employees – including maintenance workers, gate agents and baggage handlers – live in southeastern Wisconsin.
Once the flight crew transfers and other job shifts are made, the actual number of eliminated jobs is expected to be between 165 and 180, said Frontier spokesman Peter Kowalchuk.
The news comes just four days after Frontier announced it will eliminate five nonstop routes from Milwaukee. Those cuts will reduce Frontier’s daily departing flights out of Mitchell International from 32 to 18.
Effective April 16, the company will drop nonstop flights from Milwaukee to Dallas/Fort Worth; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Kansas City, Mo.; Philadelphia; and Phoenix. In addition, Milwaukee-to-Newark, N.J., service will be dropped effective April 1.
Those cuts came after earlier service reductions over the past several months. Last summer, Frontier had 67 daily flights departing Mitchell International.
Frontier ended 2011 with 29% market share at Mitchell International, down from 33% at the end of 2010, according to airport data. (That 2010 data includes the market share for Midwest Airlines, which was being merged into Frontier by the carriers’ common owner, Republic Airways).
Meanwhile, AirTran’s market share was 32%, up from 30%, while Southwest had 9% of the market, up from 8%. Southwest last year acquired AirTran, but the two carriers are still flying separately until the AirTran operations are integrated into the Southwest system.
That’s a far cry from when Midwest Airlines dominated travel at Mitchell International with market share of around 50%.
Midwest was sold in early 2008 to TPG Capital and Northwest Airlines after AirTran’s hostile takeover attempt failed. Under TPG’s ownership, Midwest cut service from Mitchell International and other airports, and cut hundreds of jobs after fuel prices spiked and demand for air travel declined.
In 2009, Republic Airways, best known for operating shorter flights for Delta and other large carriers, bought both Midwest and Frontier.
In November of that year, Republic CEO Bryan Bedford said Midwest’s lower costs – achieved in part by replacing Midwest veteran flight crews with lower-paid Republic pilots and flight attendants – would allow the airline to compete more aggressively with AirTran, Southwest and others.
Bedford said Midwest would add up to 800 jobs, roughly doubling its Milwaukee-area workforce, with some of the flights cut under TPG Capital’s ownership to be restored.
Joined by Mayor Tom Barrett and then-Gov. Jim Doyle, Bedford made that announcement at a Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce event, attended by around 1,300 people, at the Bradley Center. Bedford estimated that about half of the 800 new jobs would involve relocations of Frontier and Republic employees, with the remaining 400 openings filled by Milwaukee-area residents.
Several months later, Bedford announced that although those growth plans would proceed, the Midwest name would be eliminated in favor of combining Midwest and Frontier under the Frontier name.
But those plans faltered, with Republic losing $13.8 million in 2010 and posting a $28.3 million loss during the first three quarters of 2011. Bedford said in November that the company was looking to sell its troubled Frontier operation.
Republic could have received up to $27 million in Wisconsin tax credits through 2021 if it followed its plans to maintain and create jobs. Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., which oversees the tax credit program, has not released any of Republic’s tax credits, said agency spokesman Tom Thieding.
“The loss of 500 jobs is a setback for the region,” Barrett said in a statement. “My hope is that other airlines will step in and fill the void in this critically important market.”
February 13, 2012 Leave a comment
Bank Leumi Le Israel (LUMI.TV) said Sunday it plans to cut 800 jobs over the next three years, as part of a streamlining plan that will save the company up to 1.2 billion shekels ($324 million).
The bank said about 300 jobs will go this year as part of the new streamlining plan.
The Five Stages of Collapse
Elizabeth Kübler-Ross defined the five stages of coming to terms with grief and tragedy as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, and applied it quite successfully to various forms of catastrophic personal loss, such as death of a loved one, sudden end to one’s career, and so forth. Several thinkers, notably James Howard Kunstler and, more recently John Michael Greer, have pointed out that the Kübler-Ross model is also quite terrifyingly accurate in reflecting the process by which society as a whole (or at least the informed and thinking parts of it) is reconciling itself to the inevitability of a discontinuous future, with our institutions and life support systems undermined by a combination of resource depletion, catastrophic climate change, and political impotence. But so far, little has been said specifically about the finer structure of these discontinuities. Instead, there is to be found a continuum of subjective judgments, ranging from “a severe and prolonged recession” (the prediction we most often read in the financial press), to Kunstler’s “Long Emergency,” to the ever-popular “Collapse of Western Civilization,” painted with an ever-wider brush-stroke.
For those of us who have already gone through all of the emotional stages of reconciling ourselves to the prospect of social and economic upheaval, it might be helpful to have a more precise terminology that goes beyond such emotionally charged phrases. Defining a taxonomy of collapses might prove to be more than just an intellectual exercise: based on our abilities and circumstances, some of us may be able to specifically plan for a certain stage of collapse as a temporary, or even permanent, stopping point. Even if society at the current stage of socioeconomic complexity will no longer be possible, and even if, as Tainter points in his “Collapse of Complex Societies,” there are circumstances in which collapse happens to be the correct adaptive response, it need not automatically cause a population crash, with the survivors disbanding into solitary, feral humans dispersed in the wilderness and subsisting miserably. Collapse can be conceived of as an orderly, organized retreat rather than a rout.
For instance, the collapse of the Soviet Union – our most recent and my personal favorite example of an imperial collapse – did not reach the point of political disintegration of the republics that made it up, although some of them (Georgia, Moldova) did lose some territory to separatist movements. And although most of the economy shut down for a time, many institutions, including the military, public utilities, and public transportation, continued to function throughout. And although there was much social dislocation and suffering, society as a whole did not collapse, because most of the population did not lose access to food, housing, medicine, or any of the other survival necessities. The command-and-control structure of the Soviet economy largely decoupled the necessities of daily life from any element of market psychology, associating them instead with physical flows of energy and physical access to resources. This situation, as I argue in my forthcoming book, Reinventing Collapse, allowed the Soviet population to inadvertently achieve a greater level of collapse-preparedness than is currently possible in the United States.
Having given a lot of thought to both the differences and the similarities between the two superpowers – the one that has collapsed already, and the one that is collapsing as I write this – I feel ready to attempt a bold conjecture, and define five stages of collapse, to serve as mental milestones as we gauge our own collapse-preparedness and see what can be done to improve it. Rather than tying each phase to a particular emotion, as in the Kübler-Ross model, the proposed taxonomy ties each of the five collapse stages to the breaching of a specific level of trust, or faith, in the status quo. Although each stage causes physical, observable changes in the environment, these can be gradual, while the mental flip is generally quite swift. It is something of a cultural universal that nobody (but a real fool) wants to be the last fool to believe in a lie.
Stages of Collapse
Stage 1: Financial collapse. Faith in “business as usual” is lost. The future is no longer assumed resemble the past in any way that allows risk to be assessed and financial assets to be guaranteed. Financial institutions become insolvent; savings are wiped out, and access to capital is lost.
Stage 2: Commercial collapse. Faith that “the market shall provide” is lost. Money is devalued and/or becomes scarce, commodities are hoarded, import and retail chains break down, and widespread shortages of survival necessities become the norm.
Stage 3: Political collapse. Faith that “the government will take care of you” is lost. As official attempts to mitigate widespread loss of access to commercial sources of survival necessities fail to make a difference, the political establishment loses legitimacy and relevance.
Stage 4: Social collapse. Faith that “your people will take care of you” is lost, as local social institutions, be they charities or other groups that rush in to fill the power vacuum run out of resources or fail through internal conflict.
Stage 5: Cultural collapse. Faith in the goodness of humanity is lost. People lose their capacity for “kindness, generosity, consideration, affection, honesty, hospitality, compassion, charity” (Turnbull, The Mountain People). Families disband and compete as individuals for scarce resources. The new motto becomes “May you die today so that I die tomorrow” (Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago). There may even be some cannibalism.
Although many people imagine collapse to be a sort of elevator that goes to the sub-basement (our Stage 5) no matter which button you push, no such automatic mechanism can be discerned. Rather, driving us all to Stage 5 will require that a concerted effort be made at each of the intervening stages. That all the players seem poised to make just such an effort may give this collapse the form a classical tragedy – a conscious but inexorable march to perdition – rather than a farce (“Oops! Ah, here we are, Stage 5.” – “So, whom do we eat first?” – “Me! I am delicious!”) Let us sketch out this process.
Financial collapse, as we are are currently observing it, consists of two parts. One is that a part of the general population is forced to move, no longer able to afford the house they bought based on inflated assessments, forged income numbers, and foolish expectations of endless asset inflation. Since, technically, they should never have been allowed to buy these houses, and were only able to do so because of financial and political malfeasance, this is actually a healthy development. The second part consists of men in expensive suits tossing bundles of suddenly worthless paper up in the air, ripping out their remaining hair, and (some of us might uncharitably hope) setting themselves on fire on the steps of the Federal Reserve. They, to express it in their own vernacular, “fucked up,” and so this is also just as it should be.
The government response to this could be to offer some helpful homilies about “the wages of sin” and to open a few soup kitchens and flop houses in a variety of locations including Wall Street. The message would be: “You former debt addicts and gamblers, as you say, ‘fucked up,’ and so this will really hurt for a long time. We will never let you anywhere near big money again. Get yourselves over to the soup kitchen, and bring your own bowl, because we don’t do dishes.” This would result in a stable Stage 1 collapse – the Second Great Depression.
However, this is unlikely, because in the US the government happens to be debt addict and gambler number one. As individuals, we may have been as virtuous as we wished, but the government will have still run up exorbitant debts on our behalf. Every level of government, from local municipalities and authorities, which need the financial markets to finance their public works and public services, to the federal government, which relies on foreign investment to finance its endless wars, is addicted to public debt. They know they cannot stop borrowing, and so they will do anything they can to keep the game going for as long as possible.
About the only thing the government currently seems it fit to do is extend further credit to those in trouble, by setting interest rates at far below inflation, by accepting worthless bits of paper as collateral and by pumping money into insolvent financial institutions. This has the effect of diluting the dollar, further undermining its value, and will, in due course, lead to hyperinflation, which is bad enough in any economy, but is especially serious for one dominated by imports. As imports dry up and the associated parts of the economy shut down, we pass Stage 2: Commercial Collapse.
As businesses shut down, storefronts are boarded up and the population is left largely penniless and dependent on FEMA and charity for survival, the government may consider what to do next. It could, for example, repatriate all foreign troops and set them to work on public works projects designed to directly help the population. It could promote local economic self-sufficiency, by establishing community-supported agriculture programs, erecting renewable energy systems, and organizing and training local self-defence forces to maintain law and order. The Army Corps of Engineers could be ordered to bulldoze buildings erected on former farmland around city centers, return the land to cultivation, and to construct high-density solar-heated housing in urban centers to resettle those who are displaced. In the interim, it could reduce homelessness by imposing a steep tax on vacant residential properties and funneling the proceeds into rent subsidies for the indigent. With plenty of luck, such measures may be able to reverse the trend, eventually providing for a restoration of pre-Stage 2 conditions.
This may or may not be a good plan, but in any case it is rather unrealistic, because the United States, being so deeply in debt, will be forced to accede to the wishes of its foreign creditors, who own a lot of national assets (land, buildings, and businesses) and who would rather see a dependent American population slaving away working off their debt than a self-sufficient one, conveniently forgetting that they have mortgaged their children’s futures to pay for military fiascos, big houses, big cars, and flat-screen television sets. Thus, a much more likely scenario is that the federal government (knowing who butters their bread) will remain subservient to foreign financial interests. It will impose austerity conditions, maintain law and order through draconian means, and aide in the construction of foreign-owned factory towns and plantations. As people start to think that having a government may not be such a good idea, conditions become ripe for Stage 3.
If Stage 1 collapse can be observed by watching television, observing Stage 2 might require a hike or a bicycle ride to the nearest population center, while Stage 3 collapse is more than likely to be visible directly through one’s own living-room window, which may or may not still have glass in it. After a significant amount of bloodletting, much of the country becomes a no-go zone for the remaining authorities. Foreign creditors decide that their debts might not be repaid after all, cut their losses and depart in haste. The rest of the world decides to act as if there is no such place as The United States – because “nobody goes there any more.” So as not to lose out on the entertainment value, the foreign press still prints sporadic fables about Americans who eat their young, much as they did about Russia following the Soviet collapse. A few brave American expatriates who still come back to visit bring back amazing stories of a different kind, but everyone considers them eccentric and perhaps a little bit crazy.
Stage 3 collapse can sometimes be avoided by the timely introduction of international peacekeepers and through the efforts of international humanitarian NGOs. In the aftermath of a Stage 2 collapse, domestic authorities are highly unlikely to have either the resources or the legitimacy, or even the will, to arrest the collapse dynamic and reconstitute themselves in a way that the population would accept.
As stage 3 collapse runs its course, the power vacuum left by the now defunct fedral, state and local government is filled by a variety of new power structures. Remnants of former law enforcement and military, urban gangs, ethnic mafias, religious cults and wealthy property owners all attempt to build their little empires on the ruins of the big one, fighting each other over territory and access to resources. This is the age of Big Men: charismatic leaders, rabble-rousers, ruthless Macchiavelian princes and war lords. In the luckier places, they find it to their common advantage to pool their resources and amalgamate into some sort of legitimate local government, while in the rest their jostling for power leads to a spiral of conflict and open war.
Stage 4 collapse occurs when society becomes so disordered and impoverished that it can no longer support the Big Men, who become smaller and smaller, and eventually fade from view. Society fragments into extended families and small tribes of a dozen or so families, who find it advantageous to band together for mutual support and defense. This is the form of society that has existed over some 98.5% of humanity’s existence as a biological species, and can be said to be the bedrock of human existence. Humans can exist at this level of organization for thousands, perhaps millions of years. Most mammalian species go extinct after just a few million years, but, for all we know, Homo Sapiens still have a million or two left.
If pre-collapse society is too atomized, alienated and individualistic to form cohesive extended families and tribes, or if its physical environment becomes so disordered and impoverished that hunger and starvation become widespread, then Stage 5 collapse becomes likely. At this stage, a simpler biological imperative takes over, to preserve the life of the breeding couples. Families disband, the old are abandoned to their own devices, and children are only cared for up to age 3. All social unity is destroyed, and even the couples may disband for a time, preferring to forage on their own and refusing to share food. This is the state of society described by the anthropologist Colin Turnbull in his book The Mountain People. If society prior to Stage 5 collapse can be said to be the historical norm for humans, Stage 5 collapse brings humanity to the verge of physical extinction.
As we can easily imagine, the default is cascaded failure: each stage of collapse can easily lead to the next, perhaps even overlapping it. In Russia, the process was arrested just past Stage 3: there was considerable trouble with ethnic mafias and even some warlordism, but government authority won out in the end. In my other writings, I go into a lot of detail in describing the exact conditions that inadvertently made Russian society relatively collapse-proof. Here, I will simply say that these ingredients are not currently present in the United States.
While attempting to arrest collapse at Stage 1 and Stage 2 would probably be a dangerous waste of energy, it is probably worth everyone’s while to dig in their heels at Stage 3, definitely at Stage 4, and it is quite simply a matter of physical survival to avoid Stage 5. In certain localities – those with high population densities, as well as those that contain dangerous nuclear and industrial installations – avoiding Stage 3 collapse is rather important, to the point of inviting foreign troops and governments in to maintain order and avoid disasters. Other localities may be able to prosper indefinitely at Stage 3, and even the most impoverished environments may be able to support a sparse population subsisting indefinitely at Stage 4.
Although it is possible to prepare directly for surviving Stage 5, this seems like an altogether demoralizing thing to attempt. Preparing to survive Stages 3 and 4 may seem somewhat more reasonable, while explicitly aiming for Stage 3 may be reasonable if you plan to become one of the Big Men. Be that as it may, I must leave such preparations as an exercise for the reader. My hope is that these definitions of specific stages of collapse will enable a more specific and fruitful discussion than the one currently dominated by such vague and ultimately nonsensical terms as “the collapse of Western civilization.”
|Image by Getty Images via @daylife|
Buyouts and layoffs will shave more than 200 employees from Kennedy Space Center’s ranks during the next few months as post-shuttle downsizing continues.
Prime shuttle contractor United Space Alliance, which has been cutting staff quarterly since before last year’s final shuttle mission, plans to let go about 160 local employees on April 13.
Nearly 140 “self-nominated,” or volunteered, for the layoff during an application period that ended last week. So pending approval of those candidates, only a small number may receive unwanted notice by next week that they, too, must go.
The April layoff is the last when selected contractors can collect a “critical skills” bonus worth up to 26 weeks of pay on top of their normal severance package. NASA funded the $100 million bonus program during the shuttle’s final years as an incentive to retain essential personnel and ensure safe missions to the end.
The bonus deadline and Houston-based USA’s uncertain future didn’t prompt a surge in employees looking to leave. Companywide, about 200 people volunteered for the 250 positions expected to be cut.
USA currently employs just under 2,900, including about 1,500 in Florida, where work centers on closeout of the shuttle program and the delivery of three retired orbiters to museums.
NASA, meanwhile, offered voluntary buyouts last fall to more than 660 civil servants across the country, including up to 150 at Kennedy. It appears the number accepting the $25,000 offer will be well below those targets.
At KSC, only about 122 NASA employees planned to take the buyout, with Friday being the last day on the job for most, a KSC spokesman said.
About 60 had already left by Dec. 31, out of 273 agencywide.
February 2, 2012 1 Comment
Feb. 2 (Bloomberg) — Sumco Corp., a Japanese silicon wafer maker, said it will cut about 1,300 jobs amounting to 15 percent of its workforce as it withdraws from supplying solar panel makers following a plunge in prices for the raw materials.
The solar wafer business is expected to incur a “significant loss due to the sharp decline in demand and continued price collapse since last spring,” Sumco said in a business plan released today.
Sumco forecast a full-year loss of 85 billion yen ($1.1 billion) and asked Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd., which owns a 28 percent stake, to buy preferred shares. The company took a charge of 58.2 billion yen for the restructuring.
“This is the first Japanese casualty manufacturer from plummeting global solar costs,” said Jenny Chase, chief solar analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Other diversified players in the country are feeling the pinch too.”
The Tokyo-based company will dissolve and liquidate its subsidiaries, Sumco Solar Corp. and Minamata Denshi Co., according to a separate statement. Sumco Solar makes solar wafer, and Minamata Denshi processes raw materials for the solar business.
Sumco said the job cuts would be made by the end of January 2014. Under Sumco’s business plan, the company will close the Imari solar plant in Saga prefecture and the Ikuno plant in Hyogo prefecture.
|Image by Getty Images via @daylife|
The analyst talk was almost half right. AstraZeneca ($AZN) is sharpening its jobs ax for a new round of layoffs. But the number of jobs to be cut isn’t 3,000. It’s 7,300. Half of the cuts will hit sales and administration, with the other half divided between R&D (2,200) and operations (1,350). With the layoffs and other cost cuts, AstraZeneca hopes to slice $1.6 billion off its annual costs.
“We are acutely aware that these decisions will affect many employees,” CEO David Brennan (photo) said, “and we will strive to support our people as we implement these changes.” He’s had to utter similar words repeatedly in recent years; the company has announced a series of restructuring moves that shrank the company payrolls by at least 21,000. Most recently, AstraZeneca said it would shed 1,150 more jobs from its U.S. sales operations. Currently, it has 61,000 employees.