America is regressing, not progressing, when it comes to infrastructure. We’re increasingly power-less during disasters.
Plans by the Biden administration to invest billions of dollars in more power lines seem like a dumb idea if we can’t depend on the traditional grid when we need it most. Maybe the money should be spent investing in battery technology and creating mini-grids.
It’s one thing to reveal your desire to turn students into “revolutionaries” while speaking to someone posing as the progressive parent of a prospective new student. You’re an idiot, but you also thought the conversation was private. It wasn’t, as a teacher in Sacramento learned the hard way this week.
That’s dumb enough, but here’s a teacher who’s even dumber. In a spectacularly stupid career move, teacher Kristen Pitzen went public on TikTok and laughed like a school girl while joking about removing the American flag from her classroom because it made her uncomfortable. Then (giggle) she confided that she suggested to a student (heh, heh) that he pledge allegiance to the Pride flag (big guffaw).
On top of all this, Pitzen’s school is in Orange County, CA, where “Trump 2024” banners are already popping up. I mean, know your audience.
My friend Antonio Mora writes about Pitzen’s free speech rights versus school district rules in his Bulletin, A View from the Center.
Pitzen has since been relieved of her teaching duties, and I hope she gets a second chance, though she becomes the latest person to learn the downside of using social media to speak truth to power with a wink and a giggle.
Hate to break it to you, but justice isn’t always blind. More money buys more “justice.”
Even the bankruptcy judge was angry about the deal, but he approved it anyway.
“This is a bitter result,” judge Robert Drain said. “I believe that at least some of the Sackler parties have liability for those [opioid OxyContin] claims.”
Quick recap: The Sacklers owned Purdue Pharma, creator of OxyContin, an incredibly potent and successful painkiller. Its marketing campaign is second only to Big Tobacco in success, deaths and denials.
Under the terms of this week’s approved bankruptcy deal, the Sacklers (or an insurer?) will pay $4.3 billion, and the money will go to communities (like where?) to fund programs to fight addiction (i.e., government black holes).
The deal lets the Sacklers keep the rest of their money and protects them from being sued by all the people who want to sue them. The family has not filed for bankruptcy, and now they don’t have to!
Excuse me, I have to go pick up the pieces of my brain, because my head just exploded.
Okay. I’m back.
Sure, the Sacklers are down a few billion bucks, and sure, they lost control of their bankrupt company, but hey, they can leave with their heads held high saying they did nothing wrong. Huzzah!
“While we dispute the allegations that have been made about our family, we have embraced this path in order to help combat a serious and complex public health crisis,” said representatives of Mortimer Sackler to NPR. (Fun fact: Rich Uncle Pennybags in Monopoly is actually named Mortimer Sackler, or at least he should be.)
The Justice Department may appeal the bankruptcy deal, and the Sacklers could still face criminal charges, so the story may not be over, which is good news for defense attorneys who can keep cranking out those billable hours.
If, in fact, the Sacklers knew what was going on with Oxy and addiction and they kept pushing drug sales anyhow, there’s only one difference between them and the guy selling opioids on the street: He is in prison.
He’s dumb. They’re rich.
Just when you thought you’d read the last negative headline starring Wells Fargo, regulators say the bank needs to Pony-Express its pony-a** and giddyup already.
Five years after Wells Fargo was busted for creating fake accounts for real customers (charging them fees, leading to lower credit scores, yada yada yada), and after the bank paid about $5 billion in fines, Bloomberg reports that federal regulators want Wells Fargo to pick up the pace of tracking down every ripped off customer. Or else.
The backlog of bad business goes beyond fake bank accounts. Customers were forced to pay for car insurance as part of their Wells Fargo auto loans even though they already had insurance. Thousands of them couldn’t keep up with the payments and had their cars repossessed, including more than 400 active-duty service members.
Also, more than 100,000 people applying for Wells Fargo mortgages were wrongly charged late fees for delays caused by… the… bank.
Sources tell Bloomberg that Wells is doing the best it can to make everyone whole, but “The work has been complicated over the years by internal disagreements over how to calculate damages, as well as aging software, problems with record keeping and the bank’s past reliance on third parties.”
Regardless of whether regulators dole out more punishment, Wall Street already has. Shares fell on the news.
My favorite press release of the week comes from Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Leif Rogers:
“From mediocre to million-dollar — the world’s elite are lining up to transform their meager rear-ends into internet-breaking, mega-butts.”
Apparently Dr. Rogers somehow creates natural fat tissue to form a mega-butt without implants or downtime. He’s calling it “the Million Dollar Butt tourists jet-set from all over the planet” to pay for. “Dr. Rogers’ procedure is so popular now that there is an international waitlist.”
I don’t know Dr. Rogers, whose press release says he has an “Ivy League” education (Columbia University, according to his website). I don’t know if this procedure works or if it’s safe. I just marvel at being alive in an age when someone might pay a lot of money to make her butt look bigger. Most of us would pay top dollar for the opposite.
Elizabeth Holmes is finally about to face 12 people who are not former secretaries of state or billionaire investors. In other words, 12 people she hasn’t (allegedly) duped.
Starting Wednesday, the founder and former CEO of Theranos will begin making her case to a jury charged with determining if she lied to investors and patients about whether her magical blood testing machine worked. (It didn’t.)
The story of Theranos and Holmes is the most fascinating business fiasco of the decade. Everyone believed her. No one demanded to see the technology in action. Binge “The Dropout,” an excellent podcast from ABC’s Rebecca Jarvis, to learn more.
CNBC producer Yasmin Khorram was in the courtroom this week watching Holmes during jury selection.
“On the first day, every time a new juror walked into the room, she would turn around in her seat and attempt to make eye contact with them,” Yasmin told me via Zoom outside court on Thursday. “She did not do that on the second day. When they walked into the courtroom… she actually left the room.”
Yasmin says many prospective jurors in the Silicon Valley courtroom were well aware of Holmes and Theranos. “One guy said, ‘Sure, I can remain unbiased, but I distinctly remember the defendant’s penchant for turtlenecks.’” Another told attorneys, “I turn on my laptop and all I see is Theranos, Theranos, Theranos.”
Holmes is not wearing her signature black turtleneck and slacks these days, switching to black dresses or skirt suits for court. She usually dons a blue face mask. By the way, Yasmin says everyone in the courtroom wears masks and is vaccinated, and attorneys for Holmes have asked the judge if Elizabeth can remove her mask during trial so jurors can see her face.
One notable object in court is the large black “baby bag” near the defense table. The 37-year-old defendant will be given breaks during the trial to nurse her newborn son, her first child. The father is her partner, 29-year-old hotel heir Billy Evans, who has not been seen in court.
Holmes has pleaded not guilty, and court papers suggest her defense may include throwing her former boyfriend under the bus. The ex, 56-year-old Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, became an investor in Theranos and then its president and COO. He’s being tried separately for the same crimes, but court filings suggest Holmes may tell jurors the whole debacle was Sunny’s fault, that he abused her for years, and she was terrified.
Prosecutors claim Holmes was lying about Theranos long before Sunny hit the scene.
“We know at least one [juror] said that they have past experience with domestic violence,” Yasmin says. “I think the moment that myself and others are waiting for is to see whether or not Elizabeth Holmes takes the stand.”
Defense attorneys indicate Elizabeth might testify. Maybe then we’ll hear from her for the first time in years and learn if she still uses the same low-pitched, measured voice which some say is not natural, but fabricated.
Look, Elizabeth Holmes is either an innocent woman who was duped and/or abused, or she is a psychopath who repeatedly lied to investors and put patients dangerously at risk with inaccurate blood tests. She’s either a victim or an evil genius.
Either way, she’s not stupid. No, the dumbest person in this scenario is Sunny, a man nearly 20 years older than Elizabeth who should’ve known better. Now he does.
It’s easy to beat up on corporate America, so here’s a wonderful change of pace.
Nike gave much of its staff a week off to relax. The message was, “Do not work.” (It would be nice if the people actually making the shoes also got the week off, but let’s not get carried away.)
I’ve interviewed a lot of HR professionals this year, and all of them say the pandemic has taught them the importance of employee mental health. It’s no joke. People are burned out, stressed out, freaked out. For those of you who think workers need to collectively suck it up, and that all these extra mental health days (aka “thank-you days”) and mindfulness meditation apps are coddling a new generation into laziness, well, productivity numbers disagree.
So… time to ask your boss about a free week off. Just do it. Swoosh.
Did I miss anything or anyone? Let me know in comments, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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