Belhaven, NC Mayor Speaks in Richmond, VA

On Tuesday, Mayor Adam O’Neal of Belhaven, North Carolina stopped in Richmond to speak with the governor of Virginia. He also addressed a small crowd of pro-Medicaid expansion activists at the Virginia State Capitol about the devastation Belhaven is facing now that it has lost its hospital to a private healthcare conglomerate known as Vidant Health. He walked over 200 miles from Belhaven to Richmond, and plans on walking all the way to Washington DC to raise awareness about his community’s situation and hopefully speak with the president.

Belhaven is a town in Beaufort County, NC. It’s a rural town with around 1,688 residents. Its hospital, Vidant Pungo Hospital, was closed earlier this month. Officials estimate the closing will cause Belhaven to lose $17.5 million annually. It was also the town’s biggest employer. Now that the Belhaven hospital is closed, many locals have to travel nearly 80 miles away to get emergency care. According to O’Neal, this has already resulted in death.

Earlier this month it was reported that Portia Gibbs, age 48, of Hyde County died from a heart attack caused by a diabetic episode. With Vidant Pungo Hospital in Belhaven closed, she had to be flown 75 miles away to the nearest hospital. She didn’t survive. Many feel that she would still be alive if Belhaven’s hospital, which was closer to Gibbs’ home, was still in operation.

“When a [rural] hospital closes, that means people have to go farther to get emergency care,” O’Neal told sympathizers in Richmond. “Which means people die that wouldn’t have died before.”

Vidant did not talk to anyone in the community before announcing plans to close down Vidant Pungo Hospital. O’Neal tried to get the company’s leaders to sit down and speak with him about their decision, but they refused. It was only after 300 townspeople took to the streets in protest that they acknowledge Mayor O’Neal.

The hospital was originally run by a community board, but there were some issues with administering it. So the town approached Vidant Health to run their hospital. Vidant originally had an agreement with the town to transfer the hospital back over to town control, but they weaseled out of their responsibility and closed the hospital against the wishes of the people and town government. The hospital had around a million dollars in assets when Vidant took  control, but the hospital lost $1.2 million due to Vidant’s poor management. Instead of fixing the problem, Vidant pushed to close it because it would be more profitable to shutter a potential competitor and give everyone no choice but to go to another Vidant-run hospital over a half an hour away in Washington, NC.

“[Vidant] made $127 million in 2012, and they made $109 million in 2013,” O’Neal told supporters in Richmond. “They have $550 billion of reserves.”

Mayor O’Neal was making the point that Vidant had the money to keep the hospital in Belhaven running.

“Now everyone in our area has an extra 30 percent chance of dying,” O’Neal said, citing a study.

Some theorize that Vidant wanted to close the hospital in Belhaven and send everyone further away to Washington right from the beginning. More rural hospitals have closed this year than in the past 15 years. One of the reasons is because healthcare conglomerates like Vidant are buying rural hospitals, closing them, and making everyone in vast geographic areas go to one hospital that isn’t very accessible.

This is the true face of capitalism. People die and families suffer so that the rich can get richer. It’s all part of a business plan. Under true socialism, communities and healthcare workers will have democratic control over their town’s medical facilities, and access to healthcare will be free.

You can watch his speech here:

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Heat of the Street 7-20-2014

Here is the latest edition of Heat of the Street. I clear up some things regarding the unemployment rate that I missed last week, discuss low-wage jobs, the shortcomings of unionization, and I weigh in on the genocide in Palestine.

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Dishonor Roll 7/19/2014

“But I suppose the most revolutionary act one can engage in is to tell the truth.” -Howard Zinn

This week’s liars and scumbags in no particular order.

Dwight Jones and the Washington Redskins – Liars

Mayor Jones (D-Richmond, VA) and that awful football team make the list a bit late for this lie. The team and the mayor both claim that putting the Washington Redskins training camp in Richmond would create jobs in the area. They both forgot to mention that these jobs would be unpaid. In order to skirt labor laws, the team turned to the city to recruit volunteers to perform minimum wage jobs such as security, parking lot monitoring, and guest greeting for free! So 250 local residents are being sought as volunteers for the training camp.

On top of that, Richmond is paying the team $500,000 a year to have them train in Richmond instead of somewhere else. Because, you know, investing that money in the city’s school system, transportation system, the fire department, or into something else that would actually create real, paying jobs for people would be just plain irresponsible.

Phil Gingrey – Liar

Gingrey (R-Ga) said earlier this week that the unaccompanied migrant kids crossing the US border were infected with the Ebola virus and posed a serious health risk to Americans.

“Reports of illegal migrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus and tuberculosis are particularly concerning,” he said in a letter to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Earlier this week it was reported that he backtracked on this claim, saying he was just citing a list from border patrol.

Ebola has never been reported outside of Africa, so logic dictates that immigrant children from Latin America aren’t bringing Ebola with them.

Béla Varga – Liar

Varga is the owner of a Hungarian neo-Nazi website, but he lives in the US and hosts the website from the US. He has dual Hungarian-Canadian citizenship, and recently he took his whole family and fled to Canada after the FBI issued a warrant for his arrest. Varga is suspected of harassing and making death threats against a lawyer who subpoenaed him about his website.

Varga said the reason he fled to Canada is because “Canada has no extradition treaty in this regard to the US.” Either he is lying or just stupid. For someone who has been in the US since 1988, he sure is ignorant of how these things work. Canada will extradite him faster than he can say “white power.”

He also said that he helped the website when the Hungarian government closed them down, but denied any further involvement. That is a lie considering that he helped with one of the website’s projects by offering up to $450 in reward money for people with information on protesters outside of a trial for a Nazi war criminal.

Let’s hope the Mounties kill this moron before the FBI gets anywhere near him. It would save the taxpayer’s money on more legal nonsense.

Well, that concludes this week’s edition. I wanted to cover more liars, but I decided it would be better to touch on those issues during the Heat of the Street podcast instead. It also helps to keep these lists short anyway.

Is there something from the past week or two that you would like to see on the list? Post it on our Facebook page!

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Microsoft Announces Layoffs

Software giant Microsoft announced recently that it will cut 18,000 jobs over the course of the next year. 12,500 of the people losing their jobs will be those who work for the recently acquired Nokia phone business.

The majority of the job losses will be in places like Finland and Hungary where Nokia operated. 1,351 people in the Seattle, Washington area will also lose their jobs.

Microsoft said in a press statement that the cuts are “a restructuring plan to simplify the organization and align the recently acquired Nokia Devices and Services business with the company’s overall strategy.”

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says these layoffs are part of a plan to create a “leaner” business. Isn’t that ominous?

Microsoft said it would cut $600 million per year in costs when acquiring Nokia, and shame on you if you thought the “costs” to be cut wouldn’t be the workers themselves.

Microsoft is switching from being primarily a software company to one that sells online services, apps, and devices. Nadella claims this will make the company more productive because nothing says production increase like less employees.

Major media and corporate experts view this as an attempt to make Microsoft more competitive against other companies. Apparently they are competing to see who can increase the unemployment rate the quickest. Computer company Hewlett-Packard recently announced it would lay off 50,000 to 250,000 of its staff over the next three to five years. IBM is going through a “workforce rebalancing” which could cost 13,000 people their jobs. Intel Corp and Cisco Systems Inc have also said in recent months that they have plans to terminate 5 percent of their staff.

Well, HP gets an A for effort, but Microsoft’s brutality wins the pink slip competition hands down. Give it up tech world, you can’t compete with Nadella the Merciless.

When corporations compete, employees lose. Profits are made by paying workers less than the value of their labor and squeezing as much labor as possible out of as few workers as possible. When profits fall or are at risk, owners will rescue them by cutting regular people’s jobs or pay. If people are to be truly productive, they should kick the bosses and owners to the curb, abolish workplace hierarchy, and collectively own and run their workplaces.

That is what the employees of Microsoft/Nokia should do. They should occupy their workplaces, demand an end to the lay offs, disregard management’s orders, and make decisions democratically through a workers’ assembly.

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Richmond Protest Against the Siege of Gaza

Over 100 people gathered outside of City Hall in Richmond, Virginia yesterday afternoon in response to Israeli attacks on Gaza. Organizers plan to protest throughout Richmond all weekend.

“There are innocent civ10446673_429900120482519_4838927249447897570_nilians being murdered and every leader of every country in this world is allowing the oppression to go on,” their statement read. “The people have the power to cause change, not impotent leaders.”

Chants of “Free, free Palestine,” and “Brick by brick, wall by wall, soon this apartheid has to fall,” echoed throughout Broad Street as Palestinian flags were waved in the median strip.

The protesters were mainly family members from the local Muslim community, but other residents showed up to support the protest.

“This is not about race or ethnicity. This is about humanity,” protest organizer Noorelhoda Ramadan told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

This isn’t the first anti-apartheid protest in Richmond, but it seems to be the biggest in recent years.

It is right to oppose racism and apartheid and stand with the Palestinian people as they attempt to survive genocide. America should stop sending billions of dollars to Israel, especially considering all of America’s domestic financial woes (Detroit, anyone). The cause of the workers is the cause of Palestine, the cause of Palestine is the cause of the workers. They cannot be dissevered. Palestine seeks freedom. The working-class seeks that a free Palestine should be the sole mistress of her own destiny, supreme owner of all material things within and upon her soil. Smashing capitalism is the first step on the long road to ending bigotry and bringing peace to the region.

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Sick Subway Worker Forced to Keep Working

A Subway worker in Freeport, Texas was forced to work while severely ill or risk losing her job. Elizabeth Taft, the employee, eventually passed out and was taken to the hospital when someone from a neighboring restaurant called an ambulance. She was fired for “insubordination” after being taken to the hospital.

Taft had a stomach virus that caused her to make frequent trips to the bathroom. Drenched in sweat from her illness, she approached the manager to request to be sent home instead of, you know, harming herself and putting other people at risk with her germs. The manager (sociopath) replied by saying, “I don’t care. Get back on the line.” Taft was also told to “just switch shirts” to hide her vomit stains.

When it was her break time, Taft went outside and passed out on the lawn. A worker from the neighboring Pizza Hut called an ambulance for her. After  being taken to the hospital, where doctors gave proof she was really, truly sick, the Subway manager fired Taft for “poor performance and insubordination.”

“Because I knew if I left work I’d have lost my job,” Taft said when asked why she didn’t just leave. There are no sick days in the fast food industry. If she didn’t come in, she would be fired. Given the discrimination against the unemployed, it isn’t a safe bet that she could just quit and get another job in time to pay the rent.

This is common in the restaurant industry. Capitalism treats workers as expendable animals. It treats customers not as people but as sources of money to be tapped at all costs, even health costs. We need a movement to fight for workers’ democratic control of their workplaces. Yes to sick days! No to bosses!



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Cop Exposes Arrest, Ticket Quotas for Va. County

A former Chesterfield County, Virginia police officer recently went to the local CBS affiliate to expose the ticket and arrest quotas mandated by his former employer. Two or three tickets a day and one arrest a day are the goals that the Chesterfield Police Department uses to evaluate its officers’ performances.

“Failure to meet the expectation during this work performance plan will result in further disciplinary action,” said the former officer’s performance review.

The ex-officer resigned from the force after being denied a one percent raise for failing to meet the work quota.

Lieutenant Colonel Dan Kelly, when interviewed by CBS, denied that the system in place was a quota system. Instead, he insists that it is a “performance standard.” The difference is hard to see, especially if people are being denied raises because of it.

What people seem to not be upset enough about in the public discussion on this recent news is that there is an arrest quota in Chesterfield. A slow day for an officer, or an overly “productive” officer, will result in an innocent person being arrested for some silly reason. It results in good people being harassed and treated as bad. It is wrong to treat policing as a production job, as if police are just like people making widgets at a factory. Capitalism has turned everything into a matter of production and numbers because more arrests and tickets results in more money for bureaucrats in the police department and county government. There appears to be no serious differences between the goals of a business and the goals of the government. Both seek to profit at the expense of regular people.

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