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Fed Says Lawmakers Need to Do More as Unemployment Numbers Grow

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  • The government reported that nearly 3 million people filed for unemployment last week, bringing the total number to more than 36 million. That does not include the nearly 10 million who have exited the workforce entirely.
  • Meanwhile, people all over the country have been unable to get unemployment benefits because systems are so bogged down.
  • Fed Chair Jerome Powell said the downturn was “without modern precedent,” and warned it could create long-lasting damage if lawmakers do not provide more financial help.
  • While Democrats have proposed a new $3 trillion stimulus package, Republicans and President Trump have said it is too soon after the last stimulus bill.

Unemployment Numbers Rise

The Labor Department reported on Thursday that nearly 3 million people filed for unemployment last week, bringing the total number of claims in the last two months to more than 36 million.

While the weekly count has been decreasing steadily since late March, the number of people out of work is actually a lot higher than what is reflected in those reports. 

Last week, the Labor Department said that the actual unemployment rate for April may have been close to 20%, due to issues with the ways workers are classified. Their official count clocked it at just under 15%.

That is because the official unemployment rate only looks at the active labor force— the number of people working compared with the number of people who are looking for work or who have been “temporarily” laid off and expect to get their job back.

But that does not account for individuals who have exited the workforce altogether, like people who stopped working because they do not feel safe or those who are not actively searching for work because the job market is bad right now.

According to the Labor Department’s jobs report for April, 9.5 million people who were working in March had left the workforce by May. That’s nearly 10 million people who are not being counted in updated unemployment numbers, and if they were included, it would put the current count at 46 million.

Issues With Unemployment Systems

Even for the people who are still in the workforce and who are still trying to get unemployment benefits, there are still a ton of problems.

Numerous states have huge backlogs of unemployment claims, and people all over the country have reported that they have been unable to even reach their state agencies because the systems are so bogged down. 

As of last week, 20 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have not paid out any benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance that Congress passed as part of the stimulus bill to help freelancers, self-employed people, and other workers who normally would not be eligible for state unemployment benefits.

According to a poll for The New York Times conducted earlier this month by SurveyMonkey, more than half of the people who applied for unemployment benefits in recent weeks were unsuccessful.

In some states where people have been approved for those benefits, actually getting them has also been a slow process. In Florida, for example, less than half of all people with certified unemployment claims have actually started receiving benefits.

Jerome Powell’s Warning

Unfortunately, these are not problems that are simply going to start going away as more and more states begin to ease restrictions.

While more reopening means more rehiring and more people going back to work, most economists believe that it will take years to get the joblessness rate back to where it was before the pandemic.

As a result, many experts and officials say that the government needs to do more to help people and prop up the economy, like Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, who gave an incredibly stark warning about the state of the economy during a teleconference Wednesday.

“The scope and speed of this downturn are without modern precedent, significantly worse than any recession since the second world war,” he said.

Powell also warned that the current downturn could create serious and long-lasting damage to the economy if lawmakers do not provide more financial aid to address joblessness and prevent widespread bankruptcies.

Powell specifically said that he is worried about a domino effect situation with joblessness and spending. For example, if more and more consumers keep losing jobs, they spend less. That hurts restaurants, gyms, retail stores, and other businesses, which could force them to close, thus losing even more jobs.

While Powell applauded Congress and President Donald Trump for passing the nearly $2 trillion stimulus bill, he still said it is absolutely necessary that they do more.

“The recovery may take some time to gather momentum,” he said. “Additional fiscal support could be costly, but worth it if it helps avoid long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery.”

Debate Over New Stimulus Bill

Powell’s remarks came just one day days after House Democrats proposed a $3 trillion stimulus package aimed at providing more relief to struggling Americans.

Among other things, the proposal includes another round of stimulus checks, a large chunk of aid to states and municipalities, and more money for the Paycheck Protection Program.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) immediately said the legislation was dead on arrival.

While Senate Republicans generally do agree that another stimulus package will be needed, they also think it is too soon after the last bill. They say the government should wait to see the economic benefits from all the states that have begun reopening. 

That is also something that has been echoed by President Trump, who recently has said he expects to see a dramatic economic rebound as more restrictions are lifted.

However, it is currently unclear how big of an impact these reopenings have had on joblessness, at least so far. According to Labor Department data, even some states that rushed to open back up like Florida and Georgia still saw an increase in unemployment claims from last week.

There are also other issues that reopenings could cause when it comes to unemployment benefits, like the fact that some states are now taking a hardline approach to who gets benefits.

For example, Nebraska’s Labor Department posted a notice online saying failure to return to work “could be considered fraud” and potentially disqualify people from receiving benefits.

In South Carolina, workers are not eligible for unemployment if they do not work because they are isolating or have children to look after while schools are closed.

Those kinds of policies create more hurdles for people who desperately need help. It also puts some workers in a situation where they are forced to either stay home and not make money or work in potentially unsafe conditions.

That on its own is likely to put further strain on the economy, but it also risks more spread, which many experts have warned could undo all of the progress made and hurt the economy even more in the long run. 

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Guardian)

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Conservatives are Mad at “Woke” Xbox for Minor Climate-Related Updates

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The fury comes after Xbox announced it was slightly altering existing consoles to better utilize and save energy.


Same War, New Battlefield

Mere days after M&M canceled their “spokescandies” due to backlash from the right, led largely by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, conservatives have found a new front for their ongoing culture war: Xbox.

Carlson spent months complaining that small character redesigns were “woke” because they made the animated anthropomorphized M&M’s — in his own words — “less sexy.” His campaign finally proved successful on Monday when the company announced it would be doing away with the spokescandies and replacing them with actress Maya Rudolph.

Conservatives, now facing a sudden dearth of non-issues to complain about, quickly found a new issue to rage against. Xbox announced in a blog post earlier this month that it is making minor updates to lower its environmental impact as part of an effort to reach Microsoft’s goal of being carbon-negative by 2030.

Now, instead of having an Xbox wake up to update games, apps, and software during random times of the night, it will do that at a time of night when a user’s local energy grid is generating the most power it can from renewable sources. 

Xbox also said it would automatically update some older consoles to a power-saving mode that aims to reduce electricity consumption when it is turned off — a feature that is already the default on newer consoles.

According to The Verge, the only difference for users is that an Xbox in power-saving mode takes around 15 seconds to boot up instead of doing so immediately as the console does in “sleep” mode. The change is a small price to pay for what the outlet described as “significant” energy savings.

Xbox Under Fire

To many leading conservative voices, the minimal shifts were just another example of “woke” culture. 

While discussing M&M’s spokescandies Tuesday morning, “Fox and Friends” co-host Ainsley Earhardt brought up Xbox’s new changes with Fox radio host Jimmy Failla.

“So Xbox has also announced that they’re going woke too, you know, because of climate change,” Earhardt said.

“I mean, it’s crazy what they’re doing, but we understand what this is. It’s not that it’s actually going to offset emissions, okay — the level of reduction is infinitesimal,”  Failla claimed, without evidence. “But they’re trying to recruit your kids into climate politics at an earlier age; make them climate conscious now.”

“Yeah, I didn’t think of that — you’re right, they’re going after the children,” Earhardt agreed, despite the fact that internal data from Microsoft shows just around 10% of Xbox owners are under the age of 18.

Other prominent conservatives also did their part to bait Americans into anger on social media, including America’s Foundation, which posted a tweet stating that “the woke brigade is after video games.”

The post linked an article from the right-wing website TheBlaze, which asserted that “Xbox will force gamers to power down to fight climate change.”  That, however, is false — Xbox has said users can switch back and change the settings any time they want

Still, top lawmakers continued to share the article and spread its false claims, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.).

“First gas stoves, then your coffee, now they’re gunning for your Xbox,” he wrote in the post, which was flagged by Twitter and given an “added context” warning.

The same warning, however, was not placed in a very similar post by Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Tx.), who also shared the article.

“They want to take your guns. They want to take your gas stoves. And now they want to take your Xbox. What’s next?” he wrote.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Daily Beast) (VICE)

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Washington State Launches Investigation Into Abuse at Private Special Ed. Schools

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Allegations include staff kicking a fourth-grader and dragging a child with autism around by his leg.


Abuse Allegations

Washington State’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has launched an investigation into a system of private schools for kids with disabilities after ProPublica and the Seattle Times reported on allegations of abuse.

The series of articles focused on Northwest School of Innovative Learning (NWSOIL). NWSOIL is a set of private schools that serve 500 Washington public school students with serious disabilities. ProPublica and the Seattle Times found years of complaints from parents and school districts against NWSOIL alleging abuse, overuse of isolation rooms, and unqualified aides teaching instead of certified professionals.

One district claimed NWSOIL staff kicked a fourth-grader. Another alleged that a child with autism was dragged around by his thigh.

Many former NWSOIL employees also claim that they were pressured by their parent company to to enroll more students and skimp on basic resources, like staffing.

Investigation Launched

In a seven-page letter, OSPI reminded NWSOIL of its authority to revoke or suspend a school’s approval, meaning that it could shut NWSOIL down. 

“Given the serious nature of the allegations made in the articles, OSPI is examining what, if any, actions need to be taken with respect to Northwest SOIL’s approval to contract with Washington school districts,” Tania May, assistant superintendent for special education at OSPI, wrote in the letter.

OSPI has demanded any records of mistreatment, maltreatment, abuse, or neglect as well as documents pertaining to restraint or isolation of students and calls to the police. They are also seeking information about the student-to-teacher ratio and staff qualifications. 

In the letter, OSPI claims that all of this was previously unknown to them as well as to police, Child Protective Services, and local school districts. They are asking NWSOIL for an explanation as to why the allegations were not reported. 

NWSOIL defended itself in a public statement.

“Use of restraints and seclusion are always used as a last response when a student is at imminent risk of hurting themselves or others, it said. “We strongly deny any allegation that we understaff and/or pressure staff to increase admissions in order to maximize profits.” 

Washington state representatives are considering a reform bill that will give them more oversight on the publicly funded system of private special education schools. 

In this legislation, OSPI and at least one district that sends students to this program would be required to visit before approving the contract. It would also standardize district agreements with programs like NWSOIL, including financial safeguards to make sure funds are being used appropriately.

See the full series: (ProPublica) (The Seattle Times)

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Mass Shootings in Half Moon Bay, Oakland Rock California

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Just since Saturday, at least 19 people have been killed and 17 have been injured in mass shootings in California.


California Sees Third Attack in Under a Week

Two California localities experienced separate mass shootings Monday, just days after an attacker killed 11 and injured nine others in a suburb of Los Angeles.

The first of the most recent shootings took place in Half Moon Bay, a small coastal town about 30 miles outside of San Francisco, where a gunman killed seven and critically injured an eighth at two different locations.

According to authorities, police were dispatched to the first location around 2:20 pm and found four people shot to death and a fifth victim also suffering gunshot wounds. Shortly after, three more people were found dead at another site nearby.

About two hours later, police discovered the suspect in his car in the parking lot of a San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office substation with a semiautomatic handgun in the vehicle that officials later confirmed he had purchased legally.

Sheriff Christina Corpus said the man was taken into custody “without incident” and is “fully cooperating.” He has been identified as a 66-year-old Half Moon Bay resident of Asian descent.

Currently, the gunman’s motive is unknown, but the Sheriff told reporters Monday that both of the locations he targeted were nurseries, and it has since been reported that they were mushroom farms.

“All evidence we have points to this being an instance of workplace violence. The Mountain Mushroom Farm, the first location, is where the subject was employed,” Corpus said in a press conference Tuesday, though she added that, so far, the “only known connection between the victims and the suspect is that they may have been coworkers.”

As of writing, it remains unclear why he targeted the second location. A mushroom farm called Concord Farms has told reporters that it was the site of the second shooting — which a law enforcement official confirmed to The Washington Post.

In a statement to the media, a spokesperson said the farm had “no past knowledge” of the alleged gunman or his possible motives. Little has been released about the victims, though Corpus said Tuesday they were all adults and a “mixture of Asian and Hispanic descent,” some of whom were migrants. 

Authorities had previously stated that, because people both live and work on the farms, children were among those who witnessed the shooting. However, on Tuesday, one official walked that back and said while children were indeed in the vicinity, police do not have information about specific witnesses.

Just hours after the violence in Half Moon Bay, seven people were injured, and one other was killed during a shooting at a gas station in Oakland. Very little has been reported about the incident, but police have said that the shooting was “between several individuals.”

Renewed Calls for Gun Control

Californians continue to reel from the rapid succession of mass shootings in a state known for its strict gun control laws.

According to Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit that advocates against gun violence, the state ranks No. 1 in the country for gun law strength. An analysis led by the organization found that California has the sixth-lowest rate of gun ownership and the eighth-lowest gun death rate.

Many of California’s top lawmakers have argued that the state’s relatively low gun violence statistics emphasize the need for more federal regulations.

“The Second Amendment’s becoming a suicide pact,” Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) told CBS News in an interview.

“We’ll continue to find whatever loopholes we can and continue to lead the national conversation on gun safety reform. And the data bares out. It works. It saves lives,” he continued. “California’s 37% lower than the death rate of the rest of the nation, and yet, with all that evidence, no one on the other side seems to give a damn. I can’t get anything done in Congress.”

Following the Monterey Park shooting, U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Ca.), alongside other Democratic colleagues, introduced two gun control bills in the upper chamber. The first would ban assault weapons, while the second aims to raise the minimum age to purchase assault weapons from 18 to 21.

President Joe Biden quickly threw his support behind the measures, urging Congress to pass them.

“The majority of the American people agree with this commonsense action,” he said in a statement Monday. “There can be no greater responsibility than to do all we can to ensure the safety of our children, our communities and our nation.”

Editor’s Note: At Rogue Rocket, we make it a point to not include the names and pictures of mass murders, suspected mass murderers, or those accused of committing violent crimes who may have been seeking attention or infamy. Therefore, we will not be linking to other sources, as they may contain these details.

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