web analytics
a

Facebook

Twitter

Copyright 2015 Libero Themes.
All Rights Reserved.

8:30 - 6:00

Our Office Hours Mon. - Fri.

703-406-7616

Call For Free 15/M Consultation

Facebook

Twitter

Search
Menu
Westlake Legal Group > News Corporation (Page 68)

Can a Coal Town Reinvent Itself?

GRUNDY, Va. — Jay Rife surveys the landscape — hundreds of flat, grassy acres reclaimed from a spent mountaintop mine once operated by the Paramont Coal Company. A few handsome homes stand on one end of the project. An 80,000-square-foot shell, to house some future manufacturing operation, is being built on another. For the intrepid, there are trails for all-terrain vehicles. There’s an R.V. park. The whole site has been wired for broadband. Elk have been imported from Kentucky for tourists to look at.

Buchanan County, where Grundy sits, has spent $35 million to $40 million on the development, called Southern Gap, some seven miles from town along U.S. 460. Mr. Rife, the head of the county’s Industrial Development Authority, says the project “is going to be the salvation of Buchanan County.”

Few places have had as many shots at deliverance. None, so far, have succeeded in stemming Grundy’s inexorable decline.

This corner of southwestern Virginia has long sought alternatives to coal as a source of sustenance. The Appalachian School of Law, which opened in the 1990s in the shell of Grundy Junior High School, was heralded as a new economic engine, lubricated — of course — with taxpayer funds. So was the Appalachian College of Pharmacy, founded in 2003 some 20 minutes down the road in Oakwood. County officials considered a dental school, but figured it was too expensive. They still get grumpy about the optometry school, on which they spent $250,000 in feasibility studies only for it to open across the state line in Pikeville, Ky. Then there is downtown Grundy itself, much of which was moved up the hill to avoid periodic floodwaters from the Levisa Fork, a tributary of the Big Sandy River.

The old town of Grundy through a second-story window of Walmart, which opened in 2011.Credit…Julia Rendleman for The New York Times Walmart anchors Grundy’s new commercial center, which sits on an elevated platform built by the Army Corps.Credit…Julia Rendleman for The New York Times

Virginia estimates that the relocation and flood-proofing projects, started almost 20 years ago, cost $170 million in federal and state funds, more than $170,000 for every woman, man and child living in town today. The Army Corps of Engineers shaved off the flank of a mountain across the river to create an elevated platform on which the new commercial district would sit. Virginia’s Department of Transportation bulldozed much of the old downtown and routed U.S. 460 through it, built on top of a levee protecting what was left of Grundy’s old center. Finally, in 2011, Walmart opened a superstore to anchor the new site, perched somewhat oddly above a two-story, publicly funded parking lot.

Today, a Subway and a Taco Bell are there, too, alongside a restaurant called El Sombrero, run by the only Mexican immigrants in town. There are a Shoe Sensation, a Verizon outlet and a Double Kwik gas station. Still, the effort does not quite amount to a reinvention. The economic engine is still the one that carried this corner of Appalachia through the 20th century. “We are a one-industry community, and that’s coal,” Mr. Rife said. A few steps from Walmart, an office of Welmore Energy, a coal-producing subsidiary of the Ukrainian steel conglomerate Metinvest, serves as a reminder of that dominance.

Buchanan’s Plight

Westlake Legal Group 11TK-biz-webPORTER-Artboard_2 Can a Coal Town Reinvent Itself? Virginia Mines and Mining Local government Labor and Jobs Factories and Manufacturing Economic Conditions and Trends Coal Appalachian Region

BUCHANAN COUNTY, VAIRGINIA

Coal mining jobs

thousand jobs

Population

Personal disposable income per capita,

as a share of U.S. average

Federal transfers as a share of personal income

Social Security

Income support

Disability

Westlake Legal Group 11TK-biz-webPORTER-Artboard_3 Can a Coal Town Reinvent Itself? Virginia Mines and Mining Local government Labor and Jobs Factories and Manufacturing Economic Conditions and Trends Coal Appalachian Region

BUCHANAN COUNTY, VA.

Coal mining jobs

Population

thousand jobs

Personal disposable income per capita,

as a share of U.S. average

Federal transfers as a share of personal income

Social Security

Income support

Disability

Sources: Department of Labor Mine Safety and Health Administration (jobs); Bureau of Economic Analysis

By The New York Times

And that, today, is a problem. At the peak of coal’s fortunes in the 1970s, more than 35,000 people lived in Buchanan. Over 5,000 worked in the mines. Mr. Rife remembers downtown sidewalks in Grundy, the county seat, packed with thousands of people on weekend shopping expeditions. Karen Brown, the principal of Grundy High School, recalls Porsches and Mercedes-Benzes parked in the high school lot when she went to school there.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 00coal2-articleLarge Can a Coal Town Reinvent Itself? Virginia Mines and Mining Local government Labor and Jobs Factories and Manufacturing Economic Conditions and Trends Coal Appalachian Region

Karen Brown, principal of Grundy High School, said luxury cars were parked there when she was a student at the school.Credit…Matt Eich for The New York Times

Coal is still the most prominent business, employing one in six workers in the county and accounting for one-third of its total wages. But it can no longer support such living standards. The income of Buchanan County’s residents has fallen to about two-thirds of the national average. And about 40 percent of that comes from federal transfers like Social Security.

The county population has declined to under 22,000, of whom almost 3,500 people receive disability benefits. Over a quarter live in poverty. And it is getting old. The only age group that has grown in the last two decades is the population over 55. Ms. Brown’s high school, which housed about 1,000 students when she was there, these days educates just a bit over 400. The county’s elementary and middle school population has shrunk by a fifth over the last 10 years, to under 2,000 students.

Grundy is hardly unique. It is one of many victims of globalization, technology and other economic dislocations that have wreaked havoc with small-town America. For years, most economists argued that rather than spend millions in pursuit of a new economic engine for such places, it would make more sense to help residents seek opportunities elsewhere.

But the proliferation of towns like Grundy across what used to be the nation’s industrial heartland — stymied by joblessness, awash in opioids and frustration — has prompted a new sense of alarm. At a recent conference organized by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Lawrence H. Summers, once a top economic adviser to President Barack Obama, put it this way: “There is probably no issue more important for the political economy of the next 15 years, not just in the United States but around the world, than what happens in the areas that feel rightly that they are falling behind and increasingly left apart.”

Since the last industry peak, in 2012, the coal mines of Buchanan County have shed 1,000 jobs — roughly half. And they are not paying quite as well as they once did. Mikey Elswick estimates that 90 percent of his family has worked in the coal industry, including his father, his uncle and his brother-in-law. Still, he got out four years ago after Cambrian Coal bought the mine where he worked and said it would cut wages to around $20 an hour from $22.50. Luckily for him, the local exterminator was retiring and let him take over the business, including his roster of clients.

“There are not many jobs around here,” Mr. Elswick said. “Just teachers, state troopers and coal.” Cambrian Coal filed for bankruptcy in July.

Migration, as economists would have predicted, has become an increasingly compelling option: Those lucky enough to find work somewhere else leave. They include Ms. Brown’s two daughters — Peyton, 23, and Bailee, 25 — who last summer followed their husbands from the coal industry to more stable jobs at the Toyota plant in Georgetown, Ky.

“There are more restaurants, more shops, more like a downtown area, more traffic, more places to live,” Peyton said. While it will be tough to start a family so far from her parents, a three-and-a-half-hour drive away, she added, “it would not be wise for us to go back home.” The economics just don’t work.

Luckily, she already has a job, as a bank teller, and a community to rely on. “Friends that me and my husband went to high school with are down here already,” she said.

Brian Ward owns a small company he started, to provide crews and equipment to coal mines in the area, but has been forced into residential construction — remodeling, mostly — as coal has waned. Migration is not new, he said.

“We lost one generation of workers to Detroit, another to the Carolinas,” he said. These days, workers will go anywhere. “I don’t know where we are losing them to now,” Mr. Ward added.

Buchanan County is in some ways better off than other coal-mining regions. To be sure, its coal production has shriveled, virtually pushed out of the power market by the cheaper coal coming from the gargantuan open-top mines in the West since the 1980s. Automation has also taken out thousands of jobs.

But the county is bountiful in what’s known as metallurgical coal, used in steel making. Much of it is exported. This insulates local mines from the transition that power plants are making to natural gas. Indeed, coal jobs in the county experienced a bump starting in 2016, driven by exports to Europe and Asia. And while that has passed, as growth prospects overseas have dimmed, steel making guarantees some future for the region’s coal.

“We have been hoping and looking for infrastructure legislation,” said Harry Childress, president of the Virginia Coal and Energy Alliance in Lebanon, in the heart of coal territory 40 miles south of Grundy. “That could put steel production in the United States back online.”

”We are looking for any business except minimum-wage jobs,” said Jay Rife, head of the local economic development authority.Credit…Julia Rendleman for The New York Times Crews working on a building that will house the Southwest Virginia Technology Center in the Southern Gap industrial park.Credit…Julia Rendleman for The New York Times

Philanthropy from the McGlothlins, the Streets and the other baronial families that minted fortunes from Buchanan’s coal have helped fund projects in the area, including the law school and the college of pharmacy. Though dwindling, coal revenues can provide resources for the community’s diversification. Coal-related tax revenues, including property taxes and severance taxes imposed on the extraction of coal, are not what they once were. But they remain an important source of county funding. A share of severance taxes goes to the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, which funds Industrial Development Authority projects. The authority has funded broadband development in Buchanan County and a logistics and transportation center in Southern Gap.

Shannon Blevins, associate vice chancellor for economic development and engagement at the University of Virginia College at Wise, 60 miles from Grundy, says she is optimistic about the diversification initiatives in southwestern Virginia. She puts a lot of hope in the university’s computer-science and software-engineering graduates, who might draw the interest of high-tech firms worried about labor costs in bigger cities.

Tourism is another promising option. There are efforts to develop forest products and crops like hemp in the region, and even to identify abandoned coal mines that could house data centers, taking advantage of the low underground temperatures to keep them cool.

“This is a great time to invest in southwestern Virginia,” Ms. Blevins said.

And yet her optimism contrasts with the more jaundiced views of many residents. “There has been a ton of money spent in Buchanan County through grants,” said Mr. Ward, now in construction. “Not one penny has provided a replacement job for coal workers.”

He admits he doesn’t have good alternatives to their “pie-in-the-sky ideas,” but wonders, “How can you replace $30-an-hour jobs in the mines with mom-and-pops renting little cabins and paying $8 an hour?” His business has “not made any real money since 2011.”

The big call center on Southern Gap closed in September, cutting nearly 200 jobs. Mr. Ward is sure that 10 years from now, Walmart will have left Grundy.

Mr. Ward, 50, often shares breakfast with a rolling cast of septuagenarian veterans from the mines at the Dairy Queen on U.S. 460. There is Jim Hill, who left the mines to become a preacher in one of the county’s many Church of Christ congregations, remembering how in the old days people could retire from the mines with $1 million in their pocket. There is the guy they call “Honest Moe,” counting all the local businesses that have closed in the last few years. Together, they painted a complicated picture of the lives coal supported: dangerous but prosperous. Overwhelmingly, they support President Trump, who promised to bring coal back. But it doesn’t look as if they have much faith in the promise. As Hoot Dellinger said, leaning over the edge of his booth, “This community will never prosper again.”

Without prosperity, who will stay? “Ninety percent of the girls become nurses and leave,” Mr. Ward said. “We’ve seen a lot of guys chasing gas up in the Marcellus Shale.” But even moving doesn’t always work out. As shale jobs there have waned, Mr. Ward added, “a lot of them are trying to come back, and there’s nothing to come back to.”

Ms. Blevins acknowledges that the numbers can look bleak. But “people have to look beyond the numbers,” she said, and tease out the opportunities. “I want our region’s children to have the opportunity to stay.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Nature’s ‘Brita Filter’ Is Dying and Nobody Knows Why

Westlake Legal Group dsc02582-561f4270dd99db52ecb2d7dabb8b7f1a772e0cc1-s1100-c15 Nature's 'Brita Filter' Is Dying and Nobody Knows Why

Biologists pile fresh dead mussel shells on the edge of the Clinch River after documenting the species’ number and type. The smell can get “real bad,” says biologist Rose Agbalog. Nathan Rott/NPR hide caption

toggle caption

Nathan Rott/NPR

Westlake Legal Group  Nature's 'Brita Filter' Is Dying and Nobody Knows Why

Biologists pile fresh dead mussel shells on the edge of the Clinch River after documenting the species’ number and type. The smell can get “real bad,” says biologist Rose Agbalog.

Nathan Rott/NPR

On “good” bad days, the shells lay open at the bottom of the river, shimmering in the refracted sunlight. Their insides, pearl white and picked clean of flesh, flicker against the dark riverbed like a beacon, alerting the world above to a problem below.

“That’s what we look for in die-offs,” says biologist Jordan Richard, standing knee-deep in the slow-flowing waters of the Clinch River in southwest Virginia. He points at a faint shape submerged about ten feet upstream. “I can tell from here that’s a Pheasantshell, it’s dead and it died recently. The algae development is really light.”

The Pheasantshell is a freshwater mussel; a less-edible version of its saltwater cousin that spends most of its inconspicuous life part-buried in riverbeds, blending in with the rocks and filtering the water around them.

In recent years though, biologists and fisherman noticed something was wrong. On sections of the Clinch and other waterways in the Pacific Northwest and Midwest, dead mussels were turning up on shores and could be seen glinting from the river bottom. Surveys revealed more fresh dead or dying mussels half-buried and rotting in still-clasped shells.

Westlake Legal Group dsc02559_custom-fec869453728018f1a6867b4f751099b89d92c92-s1100-c15 Nature's 'Brita Filter' Is Dying and Nobody Knows Why

Biologist Jordan Richard pulls a freshwater mussel off the bottom of the Clinch River to see if it’s alive. Hundreds of thousands of mussels have perished in the ongoing die-off. Nathan Rott/NPR hide caption

toggle caption

Nathan Rott/NPR

“It would take you 20 to 30 seconds to go from one dead one to another to another,” says Richard, who works with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), in Virginia. “And it’s been like that week after week after week [every fall] since September 2016.”

On the Clinch River alone, hundreds of thousands are believed to have perished, a mass mortality event that has baffled scientists and alarmed ecologists.

Westlake Legal Group dsc02498-4b7f40e7576de83d8936f4f1d1b30e13851b0fd4-s800-c15 Nature's 'Brita Filter' Is Dying and Nobody Knows Why

A fresh dead Pheasantshell mussel is rotting in its shell. Snails, crawfish and other river inhabitants will eat the flesh. “Nothing goes to waste,” says Virginia biologist Tim Lane. Nathan Rott/NPR hide caption

toggle caption

Nathan Rott/NPR

Westlake Legal Group  Nature's 'Brita Filter' Is Dying and Nobody Knows Why

A fresh dead Pheasantshell mussel is rotting in its shell. Snails, crawfish and other river inhabitants will eat the flesh. “Nothing goes to waste,” says Virginia biologist Tim Lane.

Nathan Rott/NPR

Freshwater mussels, like pollinators and trees, are critical to their larger ecosystems and the world around them. They create habitat for other species, like freshwater coral reefs, and help maintain the structure and rigidity of the waterways they call home. They scoop up algae and nutrients, processing and concentrating them for others to eat.

But perhaps most importantly, these soft-bodied invertebrates improve the water quality around them (check out this video.) They filter out sediment and agricultural runoff, limiting the size and impacts of dead zones. They reduce fecal bacteria from water, lowering the risk of E.coli. They sequester carbon, phosphorous and heavy metals. There’s even evidence they can remove man-made contaminants from water, like pharmaceuticals, flame retardants and personal care products.

A single freshwater mussel can filter more than 15 gallons of water in a day.

They’re like nature’s “Brita filter,” says Emilie Blevins, a conservation biologist with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, an Oregon-based nonprofit that’s monitoring and studying the recent die-offs.

“The loss is really huge and it’s happening really quickly,” Blevins says. “It’s a major concern for the future and for the future of our fresh water.”

Westlake Legal Group dsc02540-34fb2cf103601faa40cb1e28bfcf7a12fc903721-s1100-c15 Nature's 'Brita Filter' Is Dying and Nobody Knows Why

A healthy freshwater mussel is half-buried between rocks in the Clinch River. Mussels are filter feeders that remove algae, sediment and other materials from passing water. Nathan Rott/NPR hide caption

toggle caption

Nathan Rott/NPR

Westlake Legal Group  Nature's 'Brita Filter' Is Dying and Nobody Knows Why

A healthy freshwater mussel is half-buried between rocks in the Clinch River. Mussels are filter feeders that remove algae, sediment and other materials from passing water.

Nathan Rott/NPR

Mussels on the brink

Freshwater mussels are one of most imperiled species on the planet. Nearly three-quarters of North America’s roughly 300 native mussel species are endangered, at risk, or of concern. Dozens are already extinct. Humans are the primary cause.

For decades, freshwater mussels were over-harvested for their shells. Before the era of plastic, they were collected and cultivated by the millions to satisfy a commercial demand for buttons. Even more damaging was the spread of human development and environmental degradation. Rivers were dammed for power. Streams were diverted for agriculture. Wetlands were paved for housing. All this continues today, imperiling far more than freshwater mussels.

A recent report by the United Nations found that human practices have put roughly a million species at risk of extinction, many within decades.

“The essential, interconnected web of life on Earth is getting smaller and increasingly frayed,” wrote Josef Settele, a German biologist and co-chair of the report. “This loss is a direct result of human activity and constitutes a direct threat to human well-being in all regions of the world.”

Richard, who says the report should be a wake-up call, says there are worrisome similarities between the plight of the freshwater mussel and the greater global extinction crisis.

“It’s just subtle enough that species are slipping away without anyone really noticing. A species here and a species there,” he says. “But over time that becomes ten, and a hundred, and a thousand species here and there until you’re left with this husk of the biodiversity you had before.”

Westlake Legal Group dsc02482_custom-ca70ffa1ad15cbd0acfe45bcd511f636bbf3313b-s1100-c15 Nature's 'Brita Filter' Is Dying and Nobody Knows Why

Shells of some of the Clinch River’s freshwater mussel species. Nathan Rott/NPR hide caption

toggle caption

Nathan Rott/NPR

At first, biologists investigating the cause of the freshwater mussel die-off suspected human activity – contamination or pollution. Rivers and streams in the coal seam striped Southern Appalachian Mountains have a long history of environmental degradation. But pollution tends to be indiscriminate, and not every species is being affected.

In the Clinch River, it’s the most abundant mussel species, Actinonaias pectorosa — the large, gold-brown colored Pheasantshell — that’s hardest hit. At one monitoring site, almost 90 percent of the population was lost in the year after the die-off was first discovered.

“It is weird to keep finding dozens or hundreds of dead pectorosa and other species look like they’re doing just fine,” says Rose Agbalog, another Virginia-based biologist with the USFWS.

Westlake Legal Group dsc02575_custom-6c8159de09bc0c6ad336b023b0f1939f9d616e01-s1100-c15 Nature's 'Brita Filter' Is Dying and Nobody Knows Why

Biologist Rose Agbalog documents the number and types of dead mussel species she found during a brief survey on the Clinch River. On particularly bad days, hundreds of shells line the banks. Nathan Rott/NPR hide caption

toggle caption

Nathan Rott/NPR

To some researchers, the species-specific nature of the die-off suggests another cause: disease.

A human-spread pathogen is responsible for the ongoing “amphibian apocalypse,” which has hurt more than 500 species. Scientists are looking at a virus and gut parasite that have been associated with bee colony collapse. White-nose syndrome, which has decimated North America’s bats, is caused by a fungus.

Epidemiologists and other researchers from the University of Wisconsin and the U.S. Geological Survey have been testing mussel samples, sent in from the Clinch and other affected sites, for genetic, viral and bacterial irregularities — a challenge made more difficult by a dearth of information on regular mussel pathology.

The scientists have found a novel virus and a bacterium that are “statistically associated” with the dying mussels compared to control groups, but nobody is willing yet to label either the culprit. There’s still too much uncertainty.

Are the mussels dying because they’re filled with virus and bacteria? Or are they full of virus and bacteria because they’re dying? Is there an environmental trigger driving it, like drought or climate change?

“That’s the hard part,” Richard says. “There’s a million things it could be and we only have so much money and time to find out.”

Westlake Legal Group dsc02475_custom-6ccff105269437c24cf4bc031e717f2cb2bd50b6-s1100-c15 Nature's 'Brita Filter' Is Dying and Nobody Knows Why

Mussel Recovery Specialist Sarah Colletti says the diversity of freshwater mussel species on the Clinch River is special. “It’s like having the last rhino in your backyard,” she says. Nathan Rott/NPR hide caption

toggle caption

Nathan Rott/NPR

Raising new mussels

Given those challenges, the team is leaning into a contingency plan that nobody wants to depend on. Nestled in a shallow Appalachian valley, near the banks of the South Fork Holston River, a fish hatchery now serves as a nursery for freshwater mussels. It’s home to some of the rarest species in North America.

In two long buildings, humming with running water and pumps, biologists with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries are raising thousands of freshwater mussels in sand-filled pans — mussels that, when mature, will be brought out to supplement the sputtering populations that still exist in the wild.

One pan of the federally protected Golden Riffleshell “probably holds more than naturally still live in the creek,” says Tim Lane, Virginia’s southwest region mussel recovery coordinator. “It makes me nervous even looking at it.”

Westlake Legal Group dsc02394_custom-05331963eb0f927363c3a3c20c9c934c9182cb55-s1100-c15 Nature's 'Brita Filter' Is Dying and Nobody Knows Why

Pans of freshwater mussel species line the walls of Virginia’s Aquatic Wildlife Conservation Center. State biologists raise endangered mussel species here to bolster wild populations. Nathan Rott/NPR hide caption

toggle caption

Nathan Rott/NPR

When the recent die-off was first detected, Lane and other mussel specialists raced to the upper stretches of the Clinch River to collect healthy adult Pheasantshells. Those mussels are now serving as a baseline, normal specimens to compare to the sick, but they’re also being seen as a backup.

“If this thing continues, at least we’ve got this other basket of eggs upstream so it’s not all a loss,” Lane says.

Westlake Legal Group dsc02432_custom-cbaf1f3bed7bab392d7fc005ced1594d1f42500c-s1100-c15 Nature's 'Brita Filter' Is Dying and Nobody Knows Why

Tim Lane, Virginia’s southwest region mussel recovery coordinator, helps supplement endangered populations of freshwater mussels with ones raised here. “We’re doing the best we can,” he says. Nathan Rott/NPR hide caption

toggle caption

Nathan Rott/NPR

The idea is that someday, biologists could repopulate parts of the Clinch River with Pheasantshells.

It’s an imperfect solution. Freshwater mussels have existed in these ecosystems for thousands of years, evolving to mimic intricate fish. They are the ultimate angler, Lane says, perfectly adapted to an ecosystem that humans could never recreate.

“Nature is so complex. Biology is so complex,” he says. We do not understand how important some things are until they’re gone.”

Westlake Legal Group dsc024691_custom-4f6c880d0709a55c31b5458baf66f06c01f7c258-s1100-c15 Nature's 'Brita Filter' Is Dying and Nobody Knows Why

The sun sets over a pool of water at Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ freshwater mussel hatchery. More mature mussels are being raised in these exposed waters. Nathan Rott/NPR hide caption

toggle caption

Nathan Rott/NPR

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Taylor Swift’s Surprise New Holiday Song Is Making People Cry

Westlake Legal Group 5dea1d6321000053ef34f333 Taylor Swift’s Surprise New Holiday Song Is Making People Cry

If there’s one word to describe the “mean” singer, it’s kind. Taylor has been known to spend hours signing autographs for her fans, and she even invited a fan — teen cancer patient <a href=”https://www.huffpost.com/entry/kevin-mcguire-teen-cancer-patient-taylor-swift-academy-country-music-awards_n_1301082″>Kevin McGuire</a> — to be her date to the ACM Awards. Taylor has said, “No matter what happens in life be good to people. Because being nice is a wonderful legacy to leave behind.”

Shutterstock

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

How Hard Are Tariffs Hitting The Economy? It Depends On Who You Ask

Westlake Legal Group ap_19134713552521-441319c960f0521d3f1a55098a03e1a730c7f569-s1100-c15 How Hard Are Tariffs Hitting The Economy? It Depends On Who You Ask

U.S. farmers have suffered a one-two punch of bad weather, which makes it hard to grow crops, and tariffs, that make it hard to sell what they grow. Michael Conroy/AP hide caption

toggle caption

Michael Conroy/AP

Westlake Legal Group  How Hard Are Tariffs Hitting The Economy? It Depends On Who You Ask

U.S. farmers have suffered a one-two punch of bad weather, which makes it hard to grow crops, and tariffs, that make it hard to sell what they grow.

Michael Conroy/AP

The tariff war has caused a lot of anxiety for business owners and farmers. But how much has it hurt the overall economy?

The stock market got off to a rocky start this week when President Trump launched a new round of tariff threats. But administration loyalists insist concern about the trade war is overblown.

In an interview with NPR’s Noel King, Stephen Vaughn, former general counsel for the president’s trade representative, argued that Trump’s tariff battles have not sidetracked a strong U.S. economy.

“To me, you have to look at it from the macroeconomic picture,” Vaughn said. “Record low unemployment, very — almost no inflation, strong markets, and generally strong trade numbers. So I think the policies are working very well and I think that’s why the president is continuing to go down that path.”

At 3.6%, unemployment is at a near-record low. But the pace of hiring has slowed and so has economic growth. GDP growth in the third quarter barely topped 2%, and it’s expected to slow further in last three months of the year. Manufacturers have been especially hard hit.

Factories in Michigan lost more than 4,000 jobs in the first nine months of the year. (This excludes October, when jobs were temporarily lost to the UAW strike at General Motors.) Wisconsin factories lost more than 7,000 jobs. And Pennsylvania suffered the nation’s biggest factory job losses with 7,400.

ACF Industries announced announced in November that it was cutting 148 jobs at its train car factory in Milton, Pa.

“They want everybody out by the end of the year,” employee James Dolan told WNEP-TV in Scranton. “I feel sorry for the guys in their 50s where they have to find something else.”

Factories — many of which depend on global supply chains and healthy export markets — are particularly vulnerable to the trade war. The much larger services sector — including restaurants and hospitals which cater to local customers — is more insulated, though growth in that sector is slowing as well.

The other big weak spot is farming, which has suffered a one-two punch of bad weather, which makes it hard to grow crops, and tariffs, that make it hard to sell what you do grow. In the 12 months ending in September, farm bankruptcies jumped 24%, to their highest level since 2011.

“There’s a general anxiety,” said Greg Pittman, an attorney in La Crosse, Wis.

Wisconsin led the nation in farm bankruptcies in the last year. And Pittman says that’s just the tip of the iceberg, since farmers usually resort to bankruptcy only after exhausting all other remedies.

“A lot of times we’re seeing foreclosures, lawsuits,” Pittman said. “Those are not fun times for anybody, especially farmers when they’ve got a lot on the line.”

To be sure, farmers and factory workers are a small slice of the American workforce. Whether you see their troubles as a warning sign for the larger economy may depend on your political perspective.

The University of Michigan surveys consumers about the economy every month. Richard Curtin, who runs the survey, says the gap between attitudes of Republicans and Democrats has never been wider.

“Democrats, as soon as Trump was elected, expected a recession. And they still expect a recession,” Curtin said. “Republicans expected robust growth. And they still expect robust growth.”

Almost three years into the Trump presidency, Americans still view economic reality through very different partisan lenses.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Carnival Cruise Line now certified as ‘Sensory Inclusive’

Cruises can be a dazzling display of lights and sound with an overwhelming amount of things to do – and for some people with autism, ADHD, PTSD, Down Syndrome and other sensory disabilities, that can lead to sensory overload.

But Carnival Cruise Line has gone out of its way to be more accommodating to its guests, and that has paid off with the company becoming the first cruise line to be certified “sensory inclusive” by KultureCity, a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to accessibility and inclusion for individuals with sensory needs and invisible disabilities.

All of Carnival’s South Florida-based ships are now certified, with the rest of the fleet scheduled to also earn that distinction by March of 2020.

More From TravelPulse

“Carnival Cruise Line and KultureCity share a heartfelt commitment to acceptance and inclusivity,” Vicky Rey, Carnival’s vice president of guest care and communications and the company’s ADA Responsibility Officer, said in a statement. “Working together, all of our guests can maximize their enjoyment and be the truest versions of themselves during their time on board.”

KultureCity co-founder Dr. Julian Maha echoed her thoughts.

“We’re proud and grateful to partner with Carnival Cruise Line, offering guests with sensory needs an opportunity to more fully enjoy their vacations and create wonderful memories with their friends, families and loved ones,” he said. “We appreciate Carnival Cruise Line for taking this important step in making their vacations accessible to everyone.”

Carnival’s rollout of the sensitivity training began in October. Hundreds have been trained to understand and help adults, youth and children with sensory-related questions or needs.

Westlake Legal Group CarnivalFantasyiStock Carnival Cruise Line now certified as 'Sensory Inclusive' TravelPulse fox-news/travel/general/cruises fnc/travel fnc article 4f042f39-42de-513b-b234-d941fc601840

In addition, KultureCity sensory bags are available for check out for the duration of the cruise and contain a variety of items to help calm, relax and manage sensory overload.

Items include comfortable noise-canceling headphones (provided by Puro Sound Labs), fidget toys and a visual feeling thermometer (produced in conjunction with Boardmaker), as well as a KultureCity VIP lanyard to help staff easily identify guests.

These measures have proven to already be helpful in the more than 450 landside venues like stadiums, arenas and amusement parks that have partnered with KultureCity.

“Carnival Cruise Line is to be commended for training their staff about autism and offering sensory bags that will enable individuals with autism and their families to have an enjoyable cruise,” said Dr. Temple Grandin, a renowned autism advocate and author, and one of the first individuals on the autism spectrum to document the insights she gained from her personal experience with autism.

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6031539893001_6031544922001-vs Carnival Cruise Line now certified as 'Sensory Inclusive' TravelPulse fox-news/travel/general/cruises fnc/travel fnc article 4f042f39-42de-513b-b234-d941fc601840   Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6031539893001_6031544922001-vs Carnival Cruise Line now certified as 'Sensory Inclusive' TravelPulse fox-news/travel/general/cruises fnc/travel fnc article 4f042f39-42de-513b-b234-d941fc601840

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Taylor Swift’s Surprise New Holiday Song Is Making People Cry

Westlake Legal Group 5dea1d6321000053ef34f333 Taylor Swift’s Surprise New Holiday Song Is Making People Cry

If there’s one word to describe the “mean” singer, it’s kind. Taylor has been known to spend hours signing autographs for her fans, and she even invited a fan — teen cancer patient <a href=”https://www.huffpost.com/entry/kevin-mcguire-teen-cancer-patient-taylor-swift-academy-country-music-awards_n_1301082″>Kevin McGuire</a> — to be her date to the ACM Awards. Taylor has said, “No matter what happens in life be good to people. Because being nice is a wonderful legacy to leave behind.”

Shutterstock

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

This Day in History: Dec. 6

On this day, Dec. 6 …

1907: The worst mining disaster in U.S. history occurs as 362 men and boys die in a coal mine explosion in Monongah, W. Va.

Also on this day:

  • 1865: The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolishing slavery is ratified as Georgia becomes the 27th state to endorse it.
  • 1884: Army engineers complete construction of the Washington Monument by setting an aluminum capstone atop the obelisk.
  • 1917: Some 2,000 people are killed when an explosives-laden French cargo ship, the Mont Blanc, collides with the Norwegian vessel Imo at the harbor in Halifax, Nova Scotia, setting off a blast that devastates the Canadian city.
  • 1917: Finland declares its independence from Russia.
  • 1923: A presidential address is broadcast on radio for the first time as President Coolidge speaks to a joint session of Congress.
  • 1947: Everglades National Park in Florida is dedicated by President Harry S. Truman.
  • 1957: America’s first attempt at putting a satellite into orbit fails as Vanguard TV3 rises about four feet off a Cape Canaveral launch pad before crashing down and exploding.
  • 1973: House Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford is sworn in as vice president, succeeding Spiro T. Agnew, who had resigned after pleading no contest to tax evasion amid scandal.
  • 1982: An Irish National Liberation Army bomb explodes at a pub in Ballykelly, Northern Ireland, killing 11 soldiers and six civilians.
  • 1998: In Venezuela, former Lt. Col. Hugo Chavez, who had staged a bloody coup attempt against the government six years earlier, is elected president.
  • 2008: President-elect Barack Obama says in a Saturday radio and Internet address that he’d asked his economic team for a recovery plan that would save or create more than 2 million jobs.
  • 2013: The Fender Stratocaster that Bob Dylan played at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival is sold at Christie’s for nearly $1 million – the highest price ever paid for a guitar at auction.
  • 2017: President Trump declares Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital, defying warnings from the Palestinians and others around the world that he would be destroying hopes for Mideast peace. 
  • 2017: Time magazine names as its Person of the Year the “Silence Breakers” – those who had shared their stories about sexual assault and harassment in the #MeToo movement.   
Westlake Legal Group CoalMine120619 This Day in History: Dec. 6 fox-news/us/this-day-in-history fox news fnc/us fnc d846e272-b2b5-5495-8066-2e23e50b1d20 article   Westlake Legal Group CoalMine120619 This Day in History: Dec. 6 fox-news/us/this-day-in-history fox news fnc/us fnc d846e272-b2b5-5495-8066-2e23e50b1d20 article

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Pelosi calls for articles of impeachment against Trump, but then doesn’t want to discuss it

Good morning and welcome to Fox News First. Here’s what you need to know as you start your Friday …

Pelosi calls for articles of impeachment against Trump – then doesn’t want to talk about it
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday called on the House Judiciary Committee to proceed with drafting articles of impeachment against President Trump — but she’d rather talk about other things. Pelosi sought to move on from questions about impeachment during a televised town hall Thursday night, even as she insisted she wasn’t bothered at all by polls showing sagging support for the probe against Trump.

“Can we not have any more questions about impeachment?” Pelosi asked at one point during the CNN event. “I don’t mind questions, but to ask me questions through the prism of the White House is like, what?”

Pelosi’s comments at the town hall came hours after things got heated earlier in the day during her televised remarks on impeachment. She bristled when a reporter asked her whether she hated the president. In addition, questions remain over whether Pelosi has secured enough Democrats to vote for impeachment as the effort barrels forward. She has not suggested any particular timeline for a vote, saying only, “We will proceed in a manner worthy of our oath of office.”

Observers have said the timing of such a vote could indicate whether Pelosi has enough Democrats to vote to impeach. If she has the votes, Pelosi will likely give the green light to impeach on the floor. If she doesn’t have the votes, impeachment could wait — conceivably until the new year.

Trump has challenged Democrats to get on with it. Before Pelosi’s announcement Thursday, the president tweeted, “They have no Impeachment case and are demeaning our Country. But nothing matters to them, they have gone crazy. Therefore I say, if you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair…. trial in the Senate, and so that our Country can get back to business.” Click here for more on our top story.

Republican legal scholar ‘inundated with threatening messages’ after testimony opposing Trump impeachment
Jonathan Turley, the sole Republican witness during the House Judiciary Committee’s first public impeachment hearing Wednesday, said he has been “inundated with threatening messages” since his testimony, which argued that Democrats do not have enough evidence to support articles of impeachment against President Trump.

“Before I finished my testimony, my home and office were inundated with threatening messages and demands that I be fired from George Washington University for arguing that, while a case for impeachment can be made, it has not been made on this record,” Turley wrote in an op-ed for The Hill on Thursday.

The law professor appeared alongside three other legal scholars with opposing views Wednesday. He warned that Democrats would be ill-advised to rush to a vote on impeachment articles because they do not have a complete record of witness testimonies and supporting evidence to prove that Trump abused his power to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings there. Click here for more. 

Florida high-speed chase of hijacked UPS truck ends in gunfire, four reported dead 
A harrowing police chase in South Florida on Thursday ended in gunfire with as many as four people — including a United Parcel Service driver — shot dead, according to law enforcement.

Also among the dead were two robbery suspects, who had hijacked the UPS driver’s truck, and a fourth person traveling in a nearby vehicle, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. Coral Gables police said the ordeal started with a robbery at Regent Jewelers at 386 Miracle Mile. Shots were fired and the two robbers jumped into the UPS truck and sped off, taking the delivery driver with them.

Westlake Legal Group ups-thumb Pelosi calls for articles of impeachment against Trump, but then doesn't want to discuss it fox-news/columns/fox-news-first fox news fnc/us fnc article 3350395c-9839-5f05-814c-382f6f880c4b

It’s been a dangerous holiday season for UPS drivers so far. A manhunt was underway in Northern California on Thursday night for two suspects who allegedly robbed three UPS drivers at gunpoint this week in separate incidents.

MAKING HEADLINES:
Biden lashes out at town hall questioner in heated exchange | Did Biden call voter ‘fat’?
Washington Post mocked for suggesting Melania Trump could be ‘sending coded messages.’
Black Hawk helicopter in Minnesota crashes after takeoff, killing 3 aboard, governor says.
AOC called out after claiming Trump food-stamp revisions might have left her family ‘starved.’
 
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
 
TODAY’S MUST-READS
Cat meowing with ‘thick Southern accent’ goes viral. 
More than 50 polar bears overrun far-north Russian village.
Taylor Swift releases Christmas song and video ‘made from home videos.’
 
THE LATEST FROM FOX BUSINESS
California to protect insurance policies in wildfire areas. 
New energy secretary says US position as largest oil producer ‘changes geopolitics.’
IRS releases new Form W-4: What to know to avoid a refund surprise in 2020. 
 
#TheFlashback: CLICK HERE to find out what happened on “This Day in History.”
 
SOME PARTING WORDS

Sean Hannity says Joe Biden’s “unhinged” response to an Iowa voter who asked him about his son Hunter’s relationship with a Ukrainian natural gas company shows he is “starting to crack.”

Not signed up yet for Fox News First? Click here to find out what you’re missing.
 
Fox News First is compiled by Fox News’ Bryan Robinson. Thank you for making us your first choice in the morning! Enjoy your day and weekend! We’ll see you in your inbox first thing on Monday morning.

Westlake Legal Group Pelosi120619 Pelosi calls for articles of impeachment against Trump, but then doesn't want to discuss it fox-news/columns/fox-news-first fox news fnc/us fnc article 3350395c-9839-5f05-814c-382f6f880c4b   Westlake Legal Group Pelosi120619 Pelosi calls for articles of impeachment against Trump, but then doesn't want to discuss it fox-news/columns/fox-news-first fox news fnc/us fnc article 3350395c-9839-5f05-814c-382f6f880c4b

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Taylor Swift’s Surprise New Holiday Song Is Making People Cry

Westlake Legal Group 5dea1d6321000053ef34f333 Taylor Swift’s Surprise New Holiday Song Is Making People Cry

If there’s one word to describe the “mean” singer, it’s kind. Taylor has been known to spend hours signing autographs for her fans, and she even invited a fan — teen cancer patient <a href=”https://www.huffpost.com/entry/kevin-mcguire-teen-cancer-patient-taylor-swift-academy-country-music-awards_n_1301082″>Kevin McGuire</a> — to be her date to the ACM Awards. Taylor has said, “No matter what happens in life be good to people. Because being nice is a wonderful legacy to leave behind.”

Shutterstock

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Cal Thomas: 10 Commandments say something important about plans by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren

Westlake Legal Group 070115_ff_ok_640 Cal Thomas: 10 Commandments say something important about plans by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren Tribune Media Services fox-news/us/economy fox-news/politics/elections fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/person/elizabeth-warren fox-news/person/bernie-sanders fox-news/opinion fnc/opinion fnc Cal Thomas article 1b947453-1ba6-5818-9c69-41ef849e8bd1

Not many people think of the Ten Commandments these days, unless some group is trying to fight a legal battle to place them on public property.

Still, these laws of God, which may be familiar to some only through the Cecil B. De Mille classic film starring Charlton Heston as Moses, contain worthy guidelines that are applicable to today.

When considering the “wealth tax” proposed by presidential candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the 10th Commandment is particularly relevant: “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.”

JOEL GRIFFITH: ELIZABETH WARREN’S ‘WEALTH TAX’ HAS THREE STRIKES AGAINST IT — HERE’S WHY

One definition of “covet” is: “to desire wrongfully, inordinately, or without due regard for the rights of others: to covet another’s property.”

Warren, Sanders and others intent on soaking the rich might argue their proposals to massively increase government power and reach are not wrong, or inordinate, or without due regard for the rights of others, because they believe health care for all is a right. But at the heart of their health care and other plans they claim would be paid for by additional taxes on the wealthy and successful is a failure to understand basic economic principles.

More from Opinion

One principle is that money is not a limited resource. If billionaires were depriving others of earning money then these politicians would have a credible argument, but the money pot is bottomless. There was a time when my income was so low that by today’s standards, I would have been considered poor. But I graduated from college, started in journalism at entry level and worked my way up (or down, depending on your view of journalists).

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR OUR OPINION NEWSLETTER

A Survey Monkey poll for The New York Times shows that Warren’s plan to tax wealthy individuals “continues to draw broad support from voters, across party, gender and educational lines.”

Sure, everyone likes “free stuff” until they realize that nothing is free and that someone must pay for it. Several analyses of Warren’s plan say it is impossible to achieve without tax increases on the middle class. There simply isn’t enough money that can be taken from high earners to underwrite the left’s multi-trillion-dollar spending plans.

Then there’s the notion that government will run health care better than the private sector. All one has to do is look at the often inferior “care” offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs to see this as a bogus argument.

Perhaps the best line I have heard on the subject is from our 30th president, Calvin Coolidge: “Don’t expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong.”

Much of this is driven by our modern education system. Some professors teach theories of economics, along with envy, greed and entitlement, that are the opposite of what once was called the Puritan ethic — an ethic of personal responsibility and accountability with government as last resort. This belief helped build and sustain America through many economic and societal challenges.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

Instead of celebrating and promoting the greatness of America, liberals and socialists spend their time denigrating the country and apologizing for its success. Instead of encouraging the poor and middle class to make decisions and adopt attitudes that will enhance their chances for success, they promote the belief that the rich and successful achieved by robbing others.

If America becomes a socialist nation it will be difficult to go back, even when the mistake is realized. The time to stop it is now, or more precisely with a decisive defeat of socialism in the next election.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE FROM CAL THOMAS

Westlake Legal Group 070115_ff_ok_640 Cal Thomas: 10 Commandments say something important about plans by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren Tribune Media Services fox-news/us/economy fox-news/politics/elections fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/person/elizabeth-warren fox-news/person/bernie-sanders fox-news/opinion fnc/opinion fnc Cal Thomas article 1b947453-1ba6-5818-9c69-41ef849e8bd1   Westlake Legal Group 070115_ff_ok_640 Cal Thomas: 10 Commandments say something important about plans by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren Tribune Media Services fox-news/us/economy fox-news/politics/elections fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/person/elizabeth-warren fox-news/person/bernie-sanders fox-news/opinion fnc/opinion fnc Cal Thomas article 1b947453-1ba6-5818-9c69-41ef849e8bd1

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com