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Apple Pledges $2.5 Billion to Help CA’s Housing Crisis

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  • Apple has pledged $2.5 billion to help address California’s housing crisis, which will be used to build affordable housing and aid first-time home buyers, among other things. 
  • Other major tech companies like Google and Facebook have made their own contributions to this cause, though Apple’s is the largest. 
  • The state’s housing crisis has led to massive issues due to the increasing prices of property in the state. Residents are being priced out of the Bay Area, with many saying that the presence of tech companies is behind this.
  • Housing demand is another facet of the issue, as the state is not building enough affordable housing for its population.

Apple Pledges $2.5 Billion

Apple has become the latest tech giant to pledge money to aid the housing crisis in California, offering $2.5 billion to the cause. 

Their plan will give $1 billion to an affordable housing investment, which they say will be the first of its kind in California. The fund will allow the state and others to open a line of credit for new housing for very low-to-moderate-income residents. Another $1 billion will go to a first-time homebuyer mortgage assistance fund, which will help with downpayment assistance and provide more opportunities to buy for people like service personnel, school employees and veterans. 

Apple will also give $300 million in Apple-owned land in San Jose to make available for affordable housing. The rest will go to a Bay Area housing fund and means to support vulnerable populations. Currently, the company anticipates it will take two years for this plan to be utilized.

California’s housing crisis is not a new issue, and many have pointed to tech companies for pricing long-time residents out of now expensive areas. In the company’s statement, CEO Tim Cook said the company feels a responsibility to make sure Silicon Valley can continue to be a home for its residents.

“Before the world knew the name Silicon Valley, and long before we carried technology in our pockets, Apple called this region home, and we feel a profound civic responsibility to ensure it remains a vibrant place where people can live, have a family and contribute to the community,” Cook said. “Affordable housing means stability and dignity, opportunity and pride. When these things fall out of reach for too many, we know the course we are on is unsustainable, and Apple is committed to being part of the solution.”

Apple is not the first major tech company to contribute to this ongoing issue, though it has offered the largest sum to it thus far. In October, Facebook committed $1 billion to address the housing crisis in California. In June, Google also pledged a $ billion to build homes in the Bay Area. Over in Seattle, which is experiencing a similar problem, Microsoft pledged $500 million for affordable housing

California Governor Gavin Newsom applauded Apple for taking this recent step and encouraged more companies to follow suit

“This unparalleled financial commitment to affordable housing, and the innovative strategies at the heart of this initiative, are proof that Apple is serious about solving this issue,” Newsom said in Apple’s statement. “I hope other companies follow their lead.”

Housing Crisis In California

Finding housing in California has become increasingly difficult due to both cost and demand.  According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, California has the second-highest housing wage in the country. In order to afford a 2-bedroom rental home, renters would need to earn an hourly wage of $34.69. If someone were making the state’s minimum wage, which is $12 per hour, they would need to work 116 hours a week to afford that same space.

On the demand side of the issue, homes are also not being added at the rate of the state’s growing population. According to the McKinsey Global Institute’s 2016 report on California’s housing gap, “Since 2005, California has added 308 units for every 1,000 new inhabitants.” To put that number in perspective, New York added 549 houses in the same timeframe.

Tech Companies’ Role in the Crisis and What is Being Done

Apple addressed some of these issues in their press release, noting that in the Bay Area, homeownership is at a seven-year low. They also stated that just between April and June of this year, 30,000 people moved out of San Francisco. The company pointed towards residents being priced out as a potential cause. 

This idea of residents being priced out is where tech companies come in as a cause of the housing crisis. With so many major tech headquarters calling California’s Bay Area and neighboring areas home, prices there go up. Not just tech moguls live in Silicon Valley, however, and these increasing prices are impossible for low and middle-income residents to afford.

In a 2018 report, CNN spoke to Karen Chapple, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who researches governance, planning, and development of U.S. cities. She told them that having these wide income gaps causes a “mismatch” when it comes to housing. 

“We have high tech jobs which generate a lot of service jobs: hair-cutting salons, nail salons and masseuses, yoga studios and dog care,” Chapple told the outlet. “High-end jobs and low-end jobs [are] created at the same time, but you have a housing market that is really only producing for folks at the high end of the scale. There is a mismatch.”

Housing crises do not just lead to residents moving, but also a homelessness problem throughout the state. San Jose alone has said their homeless population has increased by 40 percent in just two years. 

Tech companies are not the only ones trying to find answers to the problem. In October, Governor Newsom signed legislation that will cap annual rent hikes throughout the state. It caps rent increases, in most cases, at five percent plus inflation for the next decade.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (Wall Street Journal) (The Hill)

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Medical Workers Sign Letter Urging Spotify to Combat Misinformation, Citing Joe Rogan

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The letter accused Spotify of “enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research.”


Doctors and Medical Professionals Sign Letter to Spotify

A group of 270 doctors, scientists, and other medical workers signed an open letter to Spotify this week urging the audio platform to implement a misinformation policy, specifically citing false claims made on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast. 

Rogan has faced no shortage of backlash over the last year for promoting vaccine misinformation on his show, which airs exclusively on Spotify. Most recently, he invited Dr. Robert Malone on a Dec. 31 episode that has since been widely criticized by health experts. 

Dr. Malone was banned from Twitter for promoting COVID-19 misinformation. According to the medical experts who signed the letter, he “used the JRE platform to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public.”

“Notably, Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust,” the letter continued. “These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.”

Joe Rogan’s History of COVID-19 Misinformation

Rogan sparked swift criticism himself in the spring of 2021 when he discouraged young people from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. He also falsely equated mRNA vaccines to “gene therapy” and incorrectly stated that vaccines cause super mutations of the virus. He took ivermectin after testing positive for the virus in September, despite the fact that the drug is not approved as a treatment for COVID.

“By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals,” the doctors and medical workers wrote. 

“We are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform,” they continued. “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.”

Rolling Stone was the first outlet to report on the letter from the medical professionals. Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois Chicago, was among the signees. She told the magazine that Rogan is “a menace to public health.”

“These are fringe ideas not backed in science, and having it on a huge platform makes it seem there are two sides to this issue,” she said. “And there are really not.”

Spotify had not responded to the letter as of Thursday.

See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Deadline) (Insider)

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Data Shows Omicron May be Peaking in the U.S.

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In some cities that were first hit by the surge, new cases are starting to flatten and decline.


New Cases Flattening

After weeks of recording-breaking cases driven by the highly infectious omicron variant, public health officials say that new COVID infections seem to be slowing in the parts of the country that were hit the hardest earlier on.

Following a more than twentyfold rise in December, cases in New York City have flattened out in recent days. 

New infections have even begun to fall slightly in some states, like Maryland and New Jersey. In Boston, the levels of COVID in wastewater — which has been a top indicator of case trends in the past — have dropped by nearly 40% since the first of the year.

Overall, federal data has shown a steep decline in COVID-related emergency room visits in the Northeast, and the rest of the country appears to be following a similar track.

Data from other countries signals the potential for a steep decline in cases following the swift and unprecedented surge.

According to figures from South Africa, where the variant was first detected, cases rose at an incredibly shocking rate for about a month but peaked quickly in mid-December. Since then, new infections have plummeted by around 70%.

In the U.K., which has typically been a map for how U.S. cases will trend, infections are also beginning to fall after peaking around New Year’s and then flattening for about a week.

Concerns Remain 

Despite these recent trends, experts say it is still too early to say if cases in the U.S. will decline as rapidly as they did in South Africa and the parts of the U.K. that were first hit. 

While new infections may seem to be peaking in the cities that saw the first surges, caseloads continue to climb in most parts of the country. 

Meanwhile, hospitals are overwhelmed and health resources are still strained because of the high volume of cases hitting all at once.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Wall Street Journal)

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COVID-Driven School Closures Top Record Highs, But Many Remain Open

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While some districts have implemented protective measures, many teachers say they fall short.


Schools Respond to Omicron Surge

U.S. COVID cases, driven by the omicron variant, are continuously topping new record highs, posing difficult questions for schools resuming after winter break.

According to Burbio, a data firm that tracks school closures, at least 5,409 public schools canceled classes or moved to remote learning by the end of last week due to COVID — more than triple the number at the end of December.

That is still only a fraction of the nation’s 130,000 schools, and many of the biggest school districts in the country are still insisting that students come into the classroom.

Los Angeles, which is home to the second-biggest district, is requiring that students at least test negative before they return to school this week.

In the biggest district of New York City, classes have already resumed following winter break. Although the city has said it will double random tests and send home more kits, students were not required to provide negative results.

Teachers Protest In-Person Learning

Teachers in other major districts have protested the local government’s decisions to stay open.

One of the most closely watched battles is in Chicago, where students on Monday missed their fourth consecutive day of school due to a feud between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D).

Last week, the union voted to return to remote learning in defiance of a city-wide order mandating they teach in-person, citing inadequate COVID-19 protections. Lightfoot claimed the conditions were fine and that students were safe, despite record surges, instead opting to cancel classes altogether while the fight plays out.

On Sunday, the union said it was “still far apart” from making any kind of agreement with public school officials after Lightfoot rejected their demands.

Lightfoot, for her part, has said she remains “hopeful” a deal could be reached, but she also stirred up the union by accusing teachers of staging an “illegal walkout” and claiming they “abandoned their posts and they abandoned kids and their families.”

Meanwhile, teachers in other school districts have begun to emulate the tactics in Chicago.

On Friday, teachers in Oakland, California staged a “sick-out,” promoting 12 schools serving thousands of students to close.

See what others are saying: (The Chicago Tribune) (CNN) (The New York Times)

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