Washington Post photographer Michael S. Williamson reveals with dignity the daily struggles of the Americans who rely on food stamps to survive

here http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/the-faces-behind-americas-food-stamp-program/2014/04/14/c303bb0c-c3f0-11e3-b574-f8748871856a_gallery.html#item0


Pregnant Worker At Pier 1 Put On Unpaid Leave Even Though She Wanted To Keep Working


Kimberly Erin Caselman, who says Pier 1 put her on unpaid leave


Kimberly Erin Caselman, a 31-year-old who has worked at Pier 1 for a little over two years, was given just eight weeks of light duty assignments as requested by her doctor before she says she was forced onto unpaid leave, despite the fact that she wanted to keep working.

After she got pregnant in September, she told ThinkProgress, the company asked her to get a doctor’s note outlining any restrictions, which she did. “I had some very mild restrictions,” she said, “no lifting more than 15 pounds and no climbing ladders.” Shortly after she handed in her note, she got a letter from Pier 1′s human resources department saying that she would be given the eight weeks of light duty but that it wouldn’t extend beyond that. She contacted the department and scoured the employee handbook, but Caselman realized that this was the company-wide policy. After that short stint, the company put her on unpaid leave.

The hiatus is putting a financial strain on her family while likely making her future more difficult. “Any additional income besides my husband’s, who is the primary breadwinner of the family, is very beneficial, especially now with the new addition,” she said. And because she’s on unpaid leave now while still pregnant, she’s eating into the leave owed her after the birth of her baby. “I am very worried, because next month I will have exhausted my four-month pregnancy leave,” she said. “I’m not sure how much longer I have with the company after that is gone.”

“My intent was to work until I was unable due to the pregnancy, but I was forced out months before I needed to be,” she added.

So on Wednesday, she and the Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center filed a class action suit against the company, alleging that it is violating California labor law. Sharon Terman, Caselman’s lawyer, told ThinkProgress, “California law is actually quite clear and strong when it comes to protections for pregnant women.” The state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, which was expanded to have a pregnancy provision in 1999, requires that employers give pregnant workers reasonable accommodations so they may keep working while pregnant and bans them from putting those workers on involuntary leave. While Pier 1 does seem to have a policy that gives disabled workers with more severe restrictions more long term accomodations, “She’s not disabled,” Terman pointed out. “She’s perfectly fit to do her job.”

A Pier 1 spokesperson declined to comment, noting, “As a company policy, Pier 1 Imports does not comment on specific legal matters.”

Given that the company’s written policy on pregnancy restrictions applies universally, they believe that “a significant number of pregnant workers may have been affected” and are looking for others to join the class action suit.

“My ideal outcome would be for Pier 1′s policy to change so that pregnant women can stay employed,” Caselman said. “My goal is definitely to get back to work and start bringing in a source of income again.”

Caselman’s case illustrates a problem that faces many pregnant workers. Nearly two-thirds of first-time mothers work while pregnant, with more than 80 percent working into their last month. They may be fit to work with some restrictions to keep their pregnancies healthy, but companies still routinely deny them the accommodations they need. The majority need slight tweaks like more frequent breaks or taking on less strenuous tasks, but an estimated quarter million women are denied these requests each year.

Caselman is lucky in that she resides in a state with strong protections. In the rest of the country, pregnant workers are protected by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, but that doesn’t have as clear a mandate for how companies must accommodate them. To change this situation, states have been passing bills they call Pregnant Workers Fairness Acts, which Terman pointed out are modeled after California’s law. Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, Texas, and West Virginia have passed these laws, as has New York City. But a federal version has been repeatedly introduced, only to go no where.

Hep C drug Sovaldi costs $1000 a day: drug maker can charge monopoly pricing; US Congress bitches about that but also wont do anything to change patent system

from http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/sovaldi-whos-blame-1000-day-cure/

"The Sovaldi controversy reached fever pitch in March, when U.S. Representative Henry Waxman, a Democrat from California, and several of his colleagues in Congress wrote Gilead CEO John Martin a searing letter demanding to know why the drug costs so much. Shortly thereafter, Steven Miller, the chief medical officer of St. Louis, Mo.-based Express Scripts, said his company was putting together a coalition to refuse to cover Sovaldi after lower-priced competitors hit the market, which could happen later this year. And administrators for some Medicaid plans are so worried they won’t have enough resources to pay for any of the new treatments that they are pleading for financial assistance from their state legislators.

It may be tempting to pronounce Gilead guilty of prioritizing profits over patient need, but many Wharton experts say the blame for high drug prices should be placed on the U.S. health care system instead. “Companies obviously have an obligation to their shareholders to maximize profits,” says Patricia Danzon, Wharton professor of health care management. “That generally means doing the best that you can within the reimbursement environment that exists in any particular country. In the U.S., we have established a system of reimbursement for pharmaceuticals that unfortunately puts absolutely no limits on the prices that companies can charge.”

Gilead declined to be interviewed by Knowledge@Wharton but said in a statement: “We believe the price of Sovaldi reflects the value of the medicine. Sovaldi represents a significant therapeutic advance over other available therapies, as it has shortened the duration of treatment to as little as 12 weeks and has reduced or completely eliminated the need for interferon injections, depending on the patient’s genotype.” The company added that the price of Sovaldi plus interferon and ribavirin (which are used in conjunction) is consistent with that of protease inhibitors that are often used to treat hepatitis C."

rest at http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/sovaldi-whos-blame-1000-day-cure/

right wing radio douche Bryan Fischer “Poor ‘Ought To Be Kissing The Ground’ Upon Which The Rich Walk”

from http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/fischer-poor-ought-be-kissing-ground-upon-which-rich-walk

"…Bryan Fischer read from a recent Wall Street Journal article reporting that the top 1% of Americans account for nearly 30% of all federal tax revenue.

To Fischer, that means that the poor and middle class families in this country "ought to be kissing the ground on which [the rich] walk" because it is the top 1% that is paying for EBT cards and food stamps and federal housing."

rest at http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/fischer-poor-ought-be-kissing-ground-upon-which-rich-walk

The Tea Party Has Become a Terrorist Group – from forwardprogressives.com

from http://www.forwardprogressives.com/time-honest-tea-party-become-terrorist-group/

"They’ve done everything possible to hold our country back economically, threatened to force our country to default on our debt for the first time in history, shut down the government and have wasted millions of taxpayer dollars blatantly trying to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.

But as time goes on, more of these tea party politicians are speaking out against civil rights (even suggesting the Civil Rights Act is unconstitutional), pushing for laws that allow for religious discrimination and the anti-government rhetoric continues to expand within the Republican party.

Take for instance the escalating standoff in Nevada where anti-government activists came armed, talked about a strategy to use women as human shields, and Cliven Bundy apparently brought in his whole family (including his 54 grandchildren) to his location in anticipation of possible government action against him for violating federal law.

Because nothing says “good family values” quite like putting your children and grandchildren in harms way while your supporters considered using women as human shields if federal officers decided to enforce federal laws.

And while the situation in Nevada is an extreme instance of anti-government lunacy being represented by these far-right Republicans, I’m seeing more and more people rally in support of such radical, and potentially deadly, actions.

While there’s always been those nut jobs tucked away in the most insane corners of our country who hoard guns and “prepare” for the overthrow of the government, these people are now pushing their way into the mainstream with politicians who are actually representing their delusional beliefs.

These people have a sole purpose of destroying all the progress we’ve made in this country. Their main goal is to oppose anything and everything related to the federal government because they’ve been brainwashed into believing that the government is some evil boogeyman that’s out to get them."

rest at http://www.forwardprogressives.com/time-honest-tea-party-become-terrorist-group/

The Uninsurance Rate Is Falling Faster In States That Have Embraced Obamacare


The states that have worked to implement Obamacare’s key provisions have seen a greater drop in their uninsurance rates than the states that have resisted health reform, according to a new Gallup poll released on Wednesday.

Twenty one states and the District of Columbia have agreed to both set up an insurance marketplace and expand Medicaid, the major mechanisms through which Obamacare seeks to extend coverage to additional Americans. Those states have reduced their population of uninsured residents by an average of 2.5 percent so far this year. The 29 states that haven’t taken both of those measures, on the other hand, have seen just a 0.8 drop:


Previous Gallup studies have found that Obamacare is effectively helping lower the number of uninsured across the country. But those gains aren’t necessarily being shared equally across states, as some GOP leaders have continued to resist health reform at any cost.

Some states still haven’t lifted a finger to implement the Affordable Care Act. It’s not hard to see the concrete impact of that policy position. The states that oppose Obamacare have allocated less funding to educate residents about their options under the law, and some have even attempted to undermine the “navigators” who are tasked with helping Americans enroll. That’s ensured that the people who live in red states are much less likely to receive information about health reform, even when they seek assistance at a local clinic.

Unfortunately, those people are also the ones who need health coverage the most. The states that have resisted implementing Obamacare already had higher uninsurance rates to begin with, and are home to people who tend to be poorer and sicker than the residents in other states. Before Obamacare, there were already significant health disparities between different states — but GOP-led resistance to reform threatens to make the issue worse. Thanks to the resistance to Obamacare’s optional Medicaid expansion, about five million of the poorest Americans have been left with no affordable health care options whatsoever.