Game industry TV ad spend craters in May

There was a huge decrease in gaming industry TV ad spend from April to May, down to an estimated $9.3 million from the previous $29.4 million.
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Suicide car bomber drives into checkpoint at Somalia’s Mogadishu port
At least five people were injured when a suicide car bomber plowed into a checkpoint near the port in Mogadishu, Somalia early Saturday, Reuters reported. The explosion shook parts of the capital and metal debris fell far and wide, witnesses said. Police had no immediate comment on casualties. Security forces immediately blanketed the area. The...
New legislation aims to force automakers to confront seat safety issues
Child safety seats are now required in cars across all 50 states. While the seats have saved thousands of lives, a hazard known for decades in many vehicles has exposed the young occupants of safety seats to danger. Kris Van Cleave reports on the new legislation introduced by two senators, aimed at forcing automakers to confront the issue.
US warships deployed to South China Sea for drills
A fleet of US warships have been deployed to the South China Sea and are expected to hold some of the largest military drills the area has seen in recent years. Two aircraft carriers, the USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz, and four other warships, are set to begin their exercises Saturday, according to the...
Officers fired over photos re-enacting chokehold used on Elijah McClain
Three Colorado officers were fired and a fourth resigned over photos showing police reenact a chokehold used on Elijah McClain, a Black man who died last year after police stopped him on the street. Jamie Yuccas reports.
High tides flood California coastline
The 4th of July forecast calls for high heat in much of the U.S.
Lightning, thunder and rain expected over July 4 weekend
Lightning, thunder and rain are expected from the Gulf Coast to the Northern Plains over the Independence Day weekend. The rain may bring relief from the persistent heat gripping parts of the country. Saturday, July 4 could see higher-than-average temperatures as Americans look to celebrate the holiday while staying safe. Meteorologist Jeff Berardelli explains what the nation can expect while celebrating this weekend.
This coronavirus-killing MIT robot could end up in your local supermarket
Robot on aisle six? MIT has partnered with Ava Robotics to design a robot that may help fight the coronavirus by disinfecting the floor of a 4,000-square foot warehouse in 30 minutes. It could one day be used to clean your local grocery store or school.
Coronavirus cases surge in 40 states as U.S. braces for holiday weekend
Coronavirus is surging in 40 states across the U.S., with more than 2.5 million confirmed cases nationwide. The death toll is rising to more than 129,000. Cities and states, like California, have shut beaches ahead of the July 4 holiday weekend in an effort to control the rising COVID-19 infection rates. Michael George reports from Rockaway Beach in New York.
Washington Redskins to review team's controversial name
After decades of criticism and resistance, the Washington Redskins football team said on Friday that they would be reviewing their name -- considered by many to be racially insensitive. The move comes after dozens of investors reportedly threatened to terminate their relationships with the team, and FedEx sent an open letter to the organization calling for change. Jeff Glor reports on the team's historic decision.
8-year-old killed, 3 injured in shooting at Alabama mall
Police did not give a motive for the shooting near the food court inside the the Riverchase Galleria.
Trump defends monuments in fiery Mount Rushmore speech
President Trump kicked off the holiday weekend with an Independence Day celebration at Mount Rushmore Friday, after protesters were arrested earlier in the day after they blocked a road leading to the monument. Despite the advice of doctors and the White House coronavirus task force, Mr. Trump and the First Lady did not wear masks at the event. Nikole Killion reports on the president's divisive remarks.
London reopens pubs, hair salons after coronavirus lockdown
England is lifting some of its coronavirus restrictions Saturday, as the global tally for confirmed cases exceeds 11 million. People who are eager to get their hair cut can return to salons and barber shops, while those in need of a pint can go back to their favorite pubs. Roxana Saberi is in London to explain how the lifting of restrictions, nicknamed "Super Saturday," is playing out.
Doctor shares safety concerns amid surging U.S. coronavirus cases
Many Americans are looking for ways to stay safe this holiday weekend as coronavirus cases rise to record levels in some states. The total number of confirmed cases in the U.S. is nearly 3 million. Johns Hopkins University's Dr. Amesh Adalja joins "CBS This Morning: Saturday" to discuss the latest numbers and what that means for the millions of Americans hoping to celebrate Independence Day.
How you can bet on Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest
The Fourth of July is one of the most sacred American holidays. It’s a chance to celebrate our independence, enjoy backyard barbecues and take in fireworks. It also marks the annual 10-minute Super Bowl of competitive eating. The Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest takes place at noon Saturday and will be broadcast live on...
Newsom vows crackdown on coronavirus scofflaws. Will law enforcement cooperate?
Gov. Gavin Newsom again Wednesday threatened more enforcement for businesses that fail to follow coronavirus guidance, but how it would work remains unclear
Sorry ‘Hamilton,’ ‘1776’ is the Original 4th of July Movie Musical
Oh, so that's why Hamilton yells at John Adams to "sit down."
Want to exercise your freedom? Join in to stem the spread of coronavirus
Freedom means getting through the coronavirus together, not refusing to wear masks or to take the virus seriously
Home of the Week: Finding serenity in a 1950s Venice bungalow
The former owner of a Venice bungalow learned CAD software to realize his vision of a minimalist, Scandinavian-inspired home. Asking price: $3.895 million.
This day in sports: Dodgers and Angels were atop the standings in 1962
A look at what happened in sports history on July 4, including the Dodgers and Angels leading their respective leagues in 1962.
Alveda King: Independence Day aspirations — the challenge to strive for that more perfect union
On the Fourth of July we celebrate the birth of our nation, a nascent state determined to be something different.
Scientists say WHO ignores the risk that coronavirus floats in air as aerosol
More than 200 researchers worldwide sign an open letter saying current guidance ignores evidence that the coronavirus readily spreads on microscopic particles known as aerosols that can hang in the air for long periods and float dozens of feet.
Help! The Neighbor Kids Tore Up My Garden. Now Their Mom Says I’m a Bigot.
I don’t want her to spoil my relationship with my other neighbors, but people keep asking me about it.
New Idaho Laws Target Transgender Residents
Transgender people in Idaho say two new state laws are aimed at making their lives much harder. One involves changing the sex listed on birth certificates. The other affects trans athletes.
Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein exchanged $20M in financial transactions
Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein engaged in a series of mysterious high-dollar transactions suggesting the pair were financially interwoven, according to federal prosecutors. The two shifted $20 million back and forth between their bank accounts over a period of five years beginning in 2007, according to a memo from US attorneys arguing Maxwell’s financial resources...
There is no 'I' in 'We the People'
Today's a good day to go back and read the Declaration of Independence, signed by those brave colonists throwing off the yoke of oppression and starting this grand experiment in self-governance.
Eye Opener: Trump makes divisive speech at Mount Rushmore
President Trump attracted a large crowd for his Mount Rushmore speech, though he did not appear to wear a mask and social distancing measures were not in place. Also, top Trump campaign official and girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr. Kimberly Guilfoyle has tested positive for COVID-19. All that and all that matters in today's Eye Opener. Your world in 90 seconds.
Denmark's Little Mermaid statue vandalized with 'racist fish' grafitti
The statue was created in tribute to the Danish storyteller Hans Christian Andersen.
Hogs? Lincolns? Best and worst potential new names for Washington's NFL franchise
If Washington's NFL team decides to change its longtime nickname, what are the best (and worst) options it might go with?
Coronavirus updates: Some beaches closed, fireworks canceled as states fear Fourth of July crowds
Backyard gatherings have been of special concern to some health officials heading into the Fourth of July weekend.
Trump turns to a dark message on erasing history in Mount Rushmore address
VIDEO: Driver plows into Seattle protesters, leaving two seriously hurt
A car in Seattle plowed into protesters on a closed freeway early Saturday, sending bodies flying, according to footage of the incident. Two women sustained serious injuries after a white vehicle barreled down the road, tossing them into the air. The driver was later taken into custody. The moment was captured on video by horrified...
Texas governor reveals his biggest coronavirus regret
Crowds continue to pack bars around the US as coronavirus continues to spread. CNN's Brian Todd reports.
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Trump tries to drag America backward on a very different July 4th
On a very different Fourth of July holiday, when many Americans are wrestling with the racist misdeeds of the country's heroes and confronting an unrelenting pandemic with surging cases, their commander-in-chief is attempting to drag America backward -- stirring fear of cultural change while flouting the most basic scientific evidence about disease transmission.
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A Revolution Doesn’t Look Like a Revolution
Three months ago, a global pandemic and a sudden economic crisis looked grave enough to suggest that something—if not a revolution, then at least the stirrings of a revolutionary era—was under way. Since then, the revolt against the pre-coronavirus status quo has only gained force. Crowds chanting “Black lives matter” and “Enough is enough” have marched all across the country. Statues have been toppled, buildings have been renamed, and pollsters report that public opinion has shifted with almost unprecedented speed. In Ferguson, Missouri, and San Juan, Puerto Rico, protesters carryied a guillotine. As a historian of the French Revolution, I can’t help but pay attention to guillotines (adopted in the 1790s as an alternative to the cruel and unusual punishment of death by hanging). If the United States right now is not in the early months of a revolution, Americans are certainly surrounded by the signs of past ones.Revolutions dress up in the costumes and rhetoric of the past for the same reason that, as Karl Marx once asserted, people learning a new language begin by translating word for word from a language already known to them. By repeating gestures and slogans from past upheavals—such as damaging a statue of Louis XVI, the French king beheaded in 1793—people pushing for permanent social change make the present recognizable as revolution. They might as well be chanting, “This is what a revolution looks like.”Simultaneously, opponents can exploit the word’s association with violence to make any change seem frightening: When early election returns in New York and Kentucky appeared to favor progressive insurgents over establishment favorites, the Republican Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted that the French Revolution had come for the Democratic Party. In an article likening “the illiberal left” and “cancel culture” to Robespierre, the libertarian author Samuel Gregg predicted that the United States is about to fall into an intolerant Great Terror of “wokeness.” In images that went viral Sunday, a St. Louis attorney brandished a rifle as protesters passed his palatial home. He thought they were “storming the Bastille,” he told an interviewer later.[Shadi Hamid: The coronavirus killed the revolution]Would-be revolutionaries and radical counterrevolutionaries both forget, however, that real revolutions invariably catch people by surprise. Revolutions happen when the distinct concerns of many different groups are for a time more or less soldered together—and this coming together is not planned in advance, but produced largely by chance. This is what historians call “contingency”: One thing builds on another in a way that is neither inevitable nor easily reversed.Think about the Russian Revolution. Mutinies in the army, strikes in the factories, a parliamentary body willing to ignore the czar and declare itself a provisional government—all these dramatic struggles had been under way for months before the Bolsheviks eventually took power. So, too, the Black Lives Matter movement has been building for years. Now the COVID-19 crisis and establishment politicians’ continuing battle with Donald Trump have helped move Black Lives Matter’s concerns to the center of American politics. The threat to Black lives from official violence, the failure of anything like public-health policy, the catastrophic scale of unemployment, the inadequacy of federal and state relief measures (so mistakenly referred to as “stimulus”), the climate crisis, America’s dramatic loss of international status over the past four years: All of these threads are now interwoven. It is too early to tell what shape the resulting social fabric will take.The historian William Sewell Jr. helpfully distinguishes between ordinary “events” and “historical events”; the latter resonate as world-changing because they somehow transform the very structures of daily life. In his analysis, the reaction to and aftereffects of an event—and not just the event itself—determine whether it is historical. Imagine, for instance, if the United States Navy had responded to the bombing of Pearl Harbor by concealing the number of lives lost and saying it had long planned to scupper the USS Arizona—the attack would still have happened, but it wouldn’t be the historical event “Pearl Harbor” anymore.Or consider the French Revolution. In the summer of 1789, King Louis XVI convened roughly 1,100 men from France’s tiny elite (aristocratic military officers, major landowners, lawyers, clergy) for the first meeting of the Estates-General (the closest thing the kingdom had to a national parliament) in 175 years. Refusing to abide by rules that effectively silenced most of those notionally represented (as gerrymandering and voter suppression thwart the popular will today), many delegates instead proclaimed themselves members of the National Assembly, a new, constitution-writing body. This was a standstill, not a revolution.A few weeks later, the king summoned troops to Paris and fired his most popular adviser. Parisians poured into the streets; on July 14, about 800 of them swarmed to the Bastille, a fortress on the city’s edge, where they hoped to find weapons and gunpowder. First welcomed by the fortress’s defenders, then fired upon, the crowd eventually succeeded in getting the troops to lower the drawbridge and abandon the Bastille. They then marched the soldiers to central Paris, killed the commanding officer, and paraded his head through the streets on a pike. Popular unrest had become a rebellion, but not a revolution.When word of the violence and mayhem in Paris first reached the National Assembly, 20 miles away in Versailles, its members were horrified. Educated men, many with great fortunes, they had little personal sympathy for a mob of workers and agitators. Fearful for their own lives, many worried they would be the next victims. Within days, however, their anxiety turned to hope, as National Assembly members who took part in a fact-finding mission to Paris reported being greeted by a peaceful and joyous crowd eager to shake their hands. Men whose politics we would today characterize as center-right then spoke positively about the attack on the fortress, describing its conquest as legitimate resistance to tyranny—much like their own decision to write a constitution.[Rebecca L. Spang: The revolution is under way already]The modern concept of revolution—as an enduring political and social change created through mass action—can be traced directly to that reevaluation. Neither the creation of the National Assembly nor the attack on the Bastille was a revolution in and of itself. Both might be dismissed as “performative” insofar as neither alone achieved anything like its stated goals. But revolutionary events, those that result in sustained transformations of society, are not made by strategic plan. They do not have bullet-pointed deliverables and clear metrics of success. If they did, they would be business as usual, not a revolution.The protesters seeking justice for George Floyd have similarly combined collective creativity, a devotion to ritual, and an ability to draw mainstream approval. The Black Lives Matter movement has worked for years to oppose police brutality and show how the American justice system condemns Blackness and routinely presumes the guilt of Black boys and young men. The grossly disproportionate health and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic made fundamental inequalities all the more glaringly apparent. But it was Donald Trump encouraging governors to “get tough” with protesters and his threat to mobilize the United States military that attracted prominent supporters and establishment politicians—including former President George W. Bush, Senator Mitt Romney, and many others—to the cause.An unexpected and growing coalition now exists. On a basic level, these are pro-democracy protests made difficult to recognize as such because they’re happening in a country that has widely been considered a leading site of liberal democracy. Critics have been fast to dismiss statements from Romney, Bush, and others as mere show, but they signal a decisive change in the direction of public opinion. Republican leaders may (in the eyes of many activists) be on the wrong side of history, but they want to be on the right side of the future.[Shadi Hamid: Things were going to be so much better]Yet if one major lesson of the French Revolution is that people make history, another is that it rarely turns out as planned. The members of France’s first National Assembly were hardly men with an obvious stake in disturbing the status quo. Their conscious impulses in the first months of the revolution were in many ways conservative; they wanted to protect themselves, ensure continuity, and get things over with as quickly as possible. In the name of honoring the absolutist monarchy’s debts, however, many of them opted for policies (such as nationalizing properties held by the Catholic Church and issuing a new currency) that proved to be far more disruptive than expected. We might think of the revolution’s radicalization as a Möbius trajectory—moving in what seemed to be a single direction, it nonetheless arrived on the other side of a metaphorical strip.If the United States is in the middle of a new American revolution, months and probably years will pass before its effects or causes are fully discerned. Even when structures are unstable and existing institutions lack legitimacy, “old regimes” never fall apart neatly and completely—they have to be taken apart piece by piece. Tearing down the Bastille took nearly a year; years more passed before the workers who did the job had all been paid. Late on the night of August 4, 1789, members of the National Assembly voted to give up privilege and abolish feudalism. But privilege (literally, “private law”: one set of laws for the nobility, one for everyone else; one set of laws for the province of Brittany, one for Normandy; one for pork butchers, one for pastry cooks) had been the foundation of the kingdom’s entire judicial and administrative order. Only after decades of legal, political, and violent conflict was something like a new order stabilized.The protocols and norms that emerged in the aftermath of 18th-century revolutions—the inviolability of private property, the abstract idea of the rights-bearing individual, the fiscal-military nation-state—are today under attack as forms of privilege themselves. For now, translating that critique into an existing revolutionary vocabulary (the “poetry of the past,” Marx called it in the text I mentioned above) helps to sharpen it and draw attention to it. But those acts of translation should not, however, be mistaken for revolution itself. For real structural change, Americans will need to look not behind them to vanished certainties but ahead to uncertain possibilities. What is the difference between a revolution and the failure of a state or the collapse of an empire? Only that in a revolution, many men, women, and children have the emotional energy to imagine a better future and put lots of creative work into trying to make it so.
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Donald Trump Jr.'s girlfriend tests positive for coronavirus
Kimberly Guilfoyle had traveled to South Dakota to see the president's Fourth of July speech and celebration fireworks at Mount Rushmore.
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Ohio police officer shot to death in Home Depot parking lot
The suspect was later found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
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Progressives Surge In Congressional Democratic Primaries
Activists say the pandemic and racial justice protests have contributed to a climate that is more favorable to progressive candidates and ideas.
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International Flights Are Ramping Up. Slowly. And With Plenty Of Caveats
Many countries shut down international air travel when the pandemic began. Routes are reopening again, but you may need a COVID-19 test before you board.
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This professional grill is on sale for over 40% off just in time for summer
We think it’s is safe to say that grilling is the preferred cooking method of the season—but, is your current grill going to cut it this summer? If your outdoor or indoor grill is lacking, then it’s time you check out the Otto Lite: Professional 1,500°F Steak Grill. This mighty device offers temperatures of up...
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20-year-old scuba diver killed in shark attack
The attack happened not far from where 23-year-old Queensland wildlife ranger Zachary Robba was fatally mauled by a great white shark in April.
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David Asman: On July 4th, remember why US is a magnet for immigrants – like my wife, now a proud citizen
It's important on this July Fourth to spend a moment seeing the United States of America through the eyes of new citizens.
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40 amazing deals you can get a steal on this Fourth of July
July 4th is usually a massive shopping holiday, consisting of packed malls and busy retail stores as customers hunt down the best deals. While you might not be able to shop for deals the way you’re used to this year, you can still find amazing deals online. To help you out, here are 40 incredible...
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Why Some Young People Fear Social Isolation More Than COVID-19
It's not that young adults aren't worried about the pandemic, psychologists say, but they are at far greater risk of dying by suicide. Finding ways beyond screens to foster social bonds is crucial.
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Veterans’ Hospitals Have a Cleanliness Crisis
On a warm November day in 2017, Representative Mark Takano, a California Democrat, met with a whistleblower who had serious concerns about the 270-bed Veterans Affairs facility in Loma Linda. Later that day, Takano took a tour of the hospital, and was shocked by what he saw. Grime encrusted the water fountains; the floors of the operating room were noticeably dirty. Takano called for the VA’s inspector general to launch an investigation, which found “inconsistent levels of cleanliness” in the main hospital building, and unwashed floors, dusty cabinets, and a sterile instrument resting on a dirty rack in the inpatient dental unit. The rate of infection among Loma Linda’s patients was higher than the agency average, and the housekeeping department was largely incapacitated by high turnover, poor pay, and shaky management. A separate investigation found the bacteria Legionella pneumophila, which causes Legionnaires’ disease, in the water supply—a discovery that the facility had failed to communicate to clinicians.Today, in the midst of a pandemic that threatens everyone, but especially people with preexisting conditions, including the many veterans who suffer respiratory illnesses likely brought on by exposure to Agent Orange and burn pits, problems with cleanliness at VA facilities endure. For nearly two decades, the agency’s federal watchdog has uncovered filthy conditions at facilities across the country. The problem is due, at least in part, to the fact that 40 percent of all VA hospitals suffered from severe shortages of housekeeping staff in fiscal year 2019—the most recent data available. More than 2,000 cleaning positions are vacant across the VA’s national network, according to granular workforce data released by the agency in late May. And despite Takano’s spotlighting of issues in Loma Linda, the facility still has 21 unfilled housekeeper positions.“The way many think of custodial staff does not reflect the value that they provide to hospitals,” Takano told me recently. “They are critical to infection control; we need to see these employees as skilled workers.”[Thomas Chatterton Williams: Do Americans understand how badly they’re doing?]In the VA, housekeeping positions are generally reserved for those who served. Retired service members struggling with mental illness or physical impairments fill many of those slots. As of 2015, roughly 65 percent of VA housekeepers were people of color; currently 85 percent are veterans. Unlike clinical hospital staff, who are less likely to be veterans or minorities, housekeepers aren’t required to have advanced degrees, and they rarely win public accolades. But the VA’s 257-page COVID-19 battle plan relies heavily on housekeepers, and requires sanitizing everything from hospital chapels to body bags holding the remains of those who succumbed to the coronavirus. The VA, however, lacked enough cleaning staff to fully execute that plan. Ten days after its release, agency officials announced they needed to quickly hire housekeepers.In an impressive feat, the department hired 1,126 cleaning staff over the next month. But it’s unclear how quickly these employees were onboarded and whether this boost meaningfully shrunk the vacancy number or simply replaced some of the staff lost to attrition each quarter. The VA did not respond to a request for comment for this story.President Donald Trump earned historic support from veterans in 2016, in part by promising to fix the VA. Yet one of his signature legislative achievements, the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, has disproportionately targeted lower-level employees, who are typically veterans. Many of them are housekeepers.From 2017 to 2018, nearly 900 cleaning workers were suspended or fired as a result of the bill, many of them for specious reasons or minor mistakes. The president, however, boasted of the office’s firing spree just a few weeks ago, in Memorial Day comments dedicated to America’s fallen. “They don’t take care of our vets, we fire them,” Trump said. He enthusiastically estimated 8,000 employee terminations—many of them veterans—calling the fired staffers “sadists” and “thieves.”“They didn’t take care of our vets,” Trump said. “Now they’re gone. We got ’em out.” Those no longer in the agency include housekeepers, yes, but also clinical staff crucial to COVID-19 care. Although an analysis by the American Federation of Government Employees showed housekeeping as the top position targeted by the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, nursing came second.The necessity of VA housekeepers—and the story of their mistreatment—is vividly illustrated on the grounds of the Pittsburgh VA’s University Drive campus, a sprawling, 14-acre system built on top of an abandoned mine shaft. When the virus reached the Steel City in March, it circulated on the third floor of the Pittsburgh VA’s mental-health ward. Four housekeepers manned the floor in good times, but staff fluctuations in recent years had brought that number to as low as two. Just before the pandemic, the Pittsburgh VA acknowledged 36 custodial vacancies, and had three housekeepers on the third floor, all of whom were veterans. The oldest was in his 70s. The virus moved throughout the floor quickly. Soon most of its patients were sick.[Read: The biggest worry for doctors fighting the pandemic]None of the rooms in the mental ward were negatively pressurized, which heightened the chances of virus transmission. Staff witnessed dust spilling out of the building’s air ducts, and housekeepers spent precious time running water faucets—supposedly to prevent the spread of contaminants. Another puzzling policy that raised eyebrows on the third floor: COVID-19-positive patients were allowed to freely walk about, in and out of their rooms. This added stress to already-demanding eight-hour cleaning shifts. A VA Pittsburgh spokesperson did not respond to a detailed list of questions concerning conditions and policies on the floor.“In that situation, you’re constantly having to disinfect,” one housekeeper, who requested anonymity because of a fear of retaliation from management, told me. “Even if [patients] were wearing a mask, anything they touched you had to bleach clean. But not knowing exactly what they touched or didn’t touch, we were constantly wiping. That’s your whole day. And after a while, that bleach gets to your head.”In the early days of the pandemic, housekeeping staff lacked access to preferred cleaning supplies and nurses had to reuse protective gowns. N95 masks were also in short supply and seemed to come last for cleaners. “If they did have them, we weren’t the priority,” the housekeeper said. “We are the ugly stepchild.” As housekeepers shoulder additional risks related to COVID-19, only a few are receiving additional pay.As of April, at least half a dozen Pittsburgh VA employees had caught the virus, including the oldest housekeeper, who fought in Vietnam. Reached by phone, he confirmed that he had been diagnosed with COVID-19, but declined to speak on the record. More than 24,000 VA patients and employees have been diagnosed, and nearly 1,700 have died, including at least 40 VA employees.As the Pittsburgh VA’s housekeeping staff contended with COVID-19, they surely could have used the hands of Kevin Patterson, a feisty Marine veteran who, for 16 years, cleaned many of the hospital’s nooks and crannies. I first met Patterson more than two years ago when on a reporting trip to assess the immediate impacts of the VA’s Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection. The office was created under Trump’s 2017 law and was responsible for the VA purge. At the time, Patterson was busy fighting an overwhelming number of proposed terminations as part of his work as the local vice president of the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Federation for Government Employees. Speaking in his cramped union office in 2018, Patterson warned that the purge was “getting the guppies instead of the trout.”The VA’s leadership has long undervalued housekeepers, and the federal Office of Personnel Management hasn’t updated the job description for VA housekeepers since the Vietnam War. As a result, many earn a lower hourly wage than their private-sector colleagues, which puts them on the edge of poverty. Their firing can be catastrophic to their personal finances.The AFGE warned that the 2017 law’s provisions could be exploited to fire employees without cause and crack down on union activity, but few lawmakers took their warnings seriously. Although the OAWP no longer releases adverse action reports to the public, data from 2017 to 2018 show thousands of frontline employees were demoted, suspended, or fired, including the housekeepers.Although some OAWP terminations were surely justified, many others relied on issues as minor as narrowly missing performance metrics or arriving late to work. Last October, the VA’s inspector general found that the OAWP “did not consistently conduct procedurally sound, accurate, thorough, and unbiased investigations.” In March, the Project on Government Oversight came to a similar conclusion, and found repeated instances of retaliation against employees who raised concerns about office dysfunction. (As of late last year, the OAWP’s current director had targeted just one department leader for punishment.)In our 2018 interview, Patterson bluntly warned that the widespread termination of employees would cripple hospital services and hit veteran households hardest. He and other sources also pointed me to a Pittsburgh VA administrator untouched by the accountability office despite his work to cover up the 2011–2012 Legionnaires’ outbreak and other accusations of misconduct. (He has denied any wrongdoing.)Shortly after my story was published, Patterson was fired under Trump’s accountability statutes. The official justification for his departure cited a shouting match between him and a colleague, though multiple VA employees described the incident as a minor dispute.During arbitration, Patterson argued that he was slapped with the charge as retaliation for his union activity, including his cooperation with my story. (In the course of his case, then-AFGE local president Colleen Evans, who also spoke with me on record, testified that after my piece went live, she was “approached by somebody from public affairs, who basically told me to watch my back.”) In May, a federal arbitrator overturned Patterson’s firing and ordered the department to reinstate him with back pay. (The arbitrator found no evidence that the firing was retaliatory.)[Read: The veteran who could be VP]Patterson is eager to return to work, both to help out his fellow union members and to come back from the brink of his financial collapse. After being fired from the VA, he found a job at an Amazon warehouse. Within a few weeks, a colleague injured Patterson with a pallet jack.As he healed and sought employment elsewhere, Patterson said his job history made it virtually impossible to secure a steady position. “My wife told me to stop saying I had been fired, but that was the truth; I couldn’t lie about it,” he told me. “Plus, some employers just don’t like to hear that word, union.”Despite a couple years off the job, Patterson can still quickly run through a housekeepers’ best-practices list and can tick off specific uses for the cleaning chemicals tucked away in broom closets throughout the Pittsburgh VA. “You have to pay attention to detail,” he told me, “because cleanliness in a hospital is not just wanted—it’s necessary and needed.”Many veterans face an untenable economic future. The veteran unemployment rate has nearly tripled since January, to 8.6 percent, only slightly lower than it was in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. At the same time, the VA is grappling with roughly 50,000 vacancies across a host of departments. Hiring qualified veterans into these positions would not only improve agency functionality but also provide security for struggling veteran families. Patterson and his wife, Crystal, face foreclosure on their home and pressure to pay their daughter’s college bills. Even though he won his arbitration case, he noted the VA could still appeal the decision, preventing his return to work for months.Takano told me he had reservations about the VA bill that led to so many terminations, but he voted for it, citing its statutes as strengthening whistleblower protections. He told me he now sees the OAWP’s work as “classist” and “galling.”“They fired a lot of cleaning staff to prove accountability came to the VA,” he said, “only to create a situation where cleanliness during a pandemic is difficult.”
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Afghan translator who saved US lives and helped fellow translators escape danger becomes a US citizen
Janis Shinwari is celebrating his first Fourth of July as a US citizen.
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Afghan translator who saved US lives and helped fellow translators escape danger becomes a US citizen
Janis Shinwari is celebrating his first Fourth of July as a US citizen.
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PSA: Please stop microwaving your books to get rid of coronavirus
Some things, we suppose, just needs to be spelled out.
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PSA: Please stop microwaving your books to get rid of coronavirus
Some things, we suppose, just need to be spelled out.
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