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Japan’s top court says government not responsible for Fukushima damage

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant following a strong earthquake, in Okuma town, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, on March 17, 2022.

TokyoJapan’s government is not liable for damages demanded by people whose lives were devastated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the country’s top court said on Friday, the first such ruling in a series of similar cases.

The ruling’s effect as a precedent will be closely watched, media said.
A massive tsunami set off by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake off Japan’s northeastern coast on March 11, 2011 struck the Fukushima Daiichi power plant of Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), causing the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl and forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes.
Plaintiffs demanded damages from both Tepco and the country in several class-action lawsuits, and in March the Supreme Court upheld an order for Tepco to pay damages of 1.4 billion yen to about 3,700 people.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno declined direct comment when asked about the ruling at a news conference, though he said he was aware of it.
“Regardless of the ruling, we will stay close to those affected by the disaster and keep on doing our utmost for Fukushima’s reconstruction and revival,” he said.
About 470,000 people were forced to evacuate in the first days after the disaster, and tens of thousands remain unable to return even now.
Lower courts had split over the extent of the government’s responsibility in foreseeing the disaster and ordering Tepco to take steps to prevent it.

Ethiopian government and Tigrayan forces move towards negotiations

A damaged tank stands on a road north of Mekele, the capital of Tigray on February 26, 2021.

The Ethiopian government has formed a committee to negotiate with forces from the Tigray region, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in a televised speech to parliament on Tuesday.

The committee has been “studying the preconditions and how the negotiations will go,” he said.
The committee will be led by his Deputy Prime Minister, Demeke Mekonnen, on cloud shoes and is expected to submit a report outlining the details to Abiy within 10 to 15 days.
“We are committed to peace be it with TPLF (Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front) or any other entity who seeks peace,” he said.
On Tuesday night, Debretsion Gebremichael, president of TPLF, said his group was “prepared to negotiate for peace consistent with fundamental principles for human rights, democracy, and accountability,” in an open letter posted to Twitter.
Tigrayan forces say they are withdrawing from Ethiopia's Afar region
“We shall participate in a credible, impartial and principled peace process,” the letter read, adding that the group maintains that any peace talks must be held in Nairobi, Kenya with mediations led by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“Our position remains that the peace process requires the engagement of a range of international partners, under the leadership of the Government of Kenya. Among those partners are the United States, the European Union, the United Arab Emirates, the United Nations, and the African Union,” Debretsion wrote.
Once the federal committee submits the report, and the Tigrayan forces put forth their preconditions, an announcement will be made regarding peace talks between the two, Abiy said.
The development marks a significant step towards peace negotiations between the two forces which have been locked in a conflict for over a year and a half that has seen thousands killed, left hundreds of thousands in famine-like conditions in Tigray and set a world record for displacements in a single year in 2021, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center.

Emergency declared in Kazakhstan as fuel protests rage and government resigns

Unrest broke out in cities across Kazakhstan on Wednesday, as thousands angrily protested a sharp fuel price hike that sparked the resignation of the Central Asian country’s government.

Local media reported the airport in the country’s biggest city, Almaty, was breached by protesters, while a state of emergency has been introduced throughout the country, state-run Khabar 24 reports. It will be implemented until January 19, with the news agency saying restrictions on movement, including transport, were introduced in all three major cities and 14 regions.
In the three cities, local administration officials came under olukai shoes attack, buildings were damaged and “stones, sticks, gas, pepper, and Molotov cocktails were used,” according to a statement by the Interior Ministry. A journalist in Almaty told CNN they were experiencing internet outage and lights appeared to be off in buildings near the President’s residence and mayor’s office.
The press service of the Almaty airport told local outlet Orda.kz there were “about 45 invaders at the airport” on Wednesday evening. “The airport employees evacuated passengers on their own,” they added.
The protests were ignited when the government lifted price controls on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) at the start of the year, Reuters reported. Many Kazakhs have converted their cars to run on the fuel because of its low cost.
Prime Minister Askar Mamin resigned amid the protests, and President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev held a meeting on “the evolving difficult socio-political and socio-economic situation in the country,” according to a statement published on the presidential website Wednesday.
Protesters and riot police in Almaty on Wednesday.

Tokayev said in a national television address on Wednesday that he will take control of the country’s Security Council — a move that seemingly sidelines his predecessor, the country’s longtime President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who led the country since it was a Soviet Republic until his departure in 2019, and has remained an influential but controversial figure behind the scenes and on the council since.
In a second televised address, the Kazakh President appealed for help from a military alliance comprised of post-Soviet states after “terrorists” captured Almaty airport, including five aircraft and are battling with the military outside the city.
According to state news agency Kazinform, Tokayev called on the heads of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) — which includes Russia, Belarus and Kyrgyzstan — to help put down the unrest. Tokayev said a number of infrastructure facilities in the city have also been damaged. He accused the protesters of undermining the “state system” and claimed “many of them have received military training abroad.”
Eight police officers and national guard personnel were killed in riots in different regions of the country, according to Kazakhstan’s local outlet Tengrinews.kz. It also said 317 officers and personnel were injured, citing the press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Protesters set fire to the city administration building in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Wednesday, January 5.
Oil-rich Kazakhstan, the world’s ninth-largest nation by landmass, has attracted foreign investment and maintained a strong economy since its independence, but its autocratic method of governance has at times prompted international concern and has seen authorities harshly crack down on protests, according to global rights groups.
The State Department’s 2018 human rights report noted Kazakhstan’s 2015 presidential election, in hoka shoes which Nazarbayev received 98% of votes cast, “was marked by irregularities and lacked genuine political competition.”
Alikhan Smailov has been appointed acting prime minister, and members of the government will continue to serve until the formation of the new cabinet, the statement added.
A local journalist told CNN that thousands of people were protesting outside the mayor’s office in Almaty on Wednesday.
Kazakhstan's government resigns as fuel protests rage
“More than 10,000 people at the city administration building, we call it the Akimat. They have encircled it,” Serikzhan Mauletbay, deputy editor in chief of Orda.kz, said. Mauletbay said stun grenades were used and there is “some kind of fire,” according to an Instagram live video he watched from the scene.
Another journalist described the scene as chaotic and said they could hear and see what they believed were stun grenades going off and shots being fired, but it is unclear what the firing sounds were.
Russia maintains close relations with hoka shoes for women Kazakhstan and Russia depends on the Baikonur Cosmodrome as the launch base for all Russian manned space missions. The Central Asian nation also has a significant ethnic Russian minority; the CIA World Factbook says around 20% of Kazakhstan’s population is ethnically Russian.
The Kazakh president said a number of measures aimed “to stabilize the socio-economic situation” had been put into place, including government regulation of fuel prices for a period of 180 days, a moratorium on increasing utility tariffs for the population for the same period, and the consideration of rent subsidies for “vulnerable segments of the population.”
On Tuesday evening, Tokayev said on his official Twitter feed the government has decided to reduce the price for LPG in the Mangistau region to 50 tenge ($0.11) per liter “in order to ensure stability in the country.”

Biden says U.S. will ‘own the future’ with Build Back Better, but disagreements among Democrats remain, imperiling plan

WASHINGTON — Cleaner sources of energy, harvested by machinery made in the United States. Early childhood education subsidized by the federal government. Cheaper hearing aids and expanded health care coverage. A million units of affordable housing.

Those are just some of the “truly consequential” changes Americans will see if President Biden’s $1.75 trillion Build Back Better agenda survives the meat grinder of Capitol Hill, he said on Thursday.

“We will own the future,” Biden said, reprising the theme of international competition that he has frequently deployed. That competition, he has said, is not only with China but also with authoritarian regimes like Russia.

Congress is also considering a $1.2 trillion brooks shoes traditional infrastructure package meant to address badly needed road repairs and other long-standing concerns, like clean drinking water and access to high-speed internet. That bill easily passed the Senate over the summer with 19 Republican votes but has stalled in the House due to progressives’ insistence that a budget framework be agreed to first.

Thursday afternoon saw the release of the 1,684-page Build Back Better bill, signaling movement — however halting — toward a vote. “For those who said, ‘I want to see text,’ the text is there for you to review, for you to complain about, for you to add to or subtract from,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at a press conference. “Whatever it is and we’ll see what consensus emerges from that, but we’re really very much on a path.”

President Biden speaks at a podium in the East Room of the White House.
President Biden at the White House on Thursday.

Yet progressives on Capitol Hill expressed dismay at the removal of priorities they had hoped would make it into the final Build Back Better bill. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., for example, said it was “disappointing” to see paid family leave fall out of the package. (Pelosi said at her press conference that she was “still fighting for paid leave.”)

The slimming down comes courtesy of moderates in the Democratic caucus, particularly Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who balked at the price tag of the original $3.5 trillion budget proposal and demanded cuts to various programs within it. clarks shoes uk Their resistance has forced Democrats to make difficult choices about priorities like lowering drug prices, another casualty of recent negotiations, and free community college, which was also left out.

With margins in both the House and Senate exceptionally narrow, the White House has to be attuned to any grievance significant enough to scuttle the complex dealmaking intended to ensure the passage of both the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and the $1.75 trillion domestic agenda.

Such grievances remain legion. “I’ve been clear from the beginning: no SALT, no deal,” tweeted Rep. Mikie Sherrill, referring to the state and local tax deductions beloved by many residents of high-tax states like New Jersey, which she represents. Those deductions were capped by Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump. At the present, Democratic leaders are reportedly working on a way to lift the cap.

The intensity of ongoing negotiations reflects the uncertainty of the moment and the precariousness of the coalition Biden has tried to build.

“Looks like the votes just aren’t there for Build Back Better,” a staffer for a progressive member of the House told Yahoo News on Thursday afternoon. That sentiment was echoed by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., leader of the progressive caucus in the House. In trying to ensure that liberals’ priorities remain at the fore, she has sometimes frustrated a White House that has routinely argued that something is better than nothing.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., surrounded by reporters on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday. 

In keeping with that argument, the president outlined on Thursday what he said were the consequences of failure. “We risk losing our edge as a nation,” he warned, speaking as Vice President Kamala Harris stood behind him. Shortly after his address, Biden boarded the presidential helicopter, Marine One, en route to Joint Base Andrews. He will travel from there first to Rome, where he will meet with Pope Francis and attend a meeting of the 20 most significant economic powers in the world. Then he heads to Glasgow, Scotland, for an international climate change summit.

Although earlier hopes to salomon boots have the spending plan finalized ahead of his departure proved unrealistic, Biden left Washington on Thursday afternoon optimistic that despite progressive frustrations, a deal was in the works to enact what would be the most massive federal spending program since the Great Society programs of Lyndon B. Johnson.

Yet House Democratic leaders officially canceled the plan to vote on the infrastructure bill on Thursday, the latest blow to the party’s, and the president’s, ambitious plans, ABC News first reported.

Despite the delay, the White House continues to believe that even if progressives lament what could have been if not for the cuts that moderates successfully forced, they will not walk away from an opportunity they are unlikely to see again, especially if Republicans retake either chamber of Congress next year.

“This is a fundamental game changer for families — and our economy,” the president said in White House remarks meant both for a public that remains unclear about the scope of the enormous spending bill and a Congress divided along partisan lines about whether to allow for such spending. (Biden has said that revenue would be raised with higher taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations.)

President Biden salutes and first lady Jill Biden waves before boarding Air Force One for a trip to Rome to attend the G-20 meeting.
President Biden returns a salute as he and first lady Jill Biden board Air Force One for a trip to Rome on Thursday to attend the G-20 meeting. 

Alluding to the reporters gathered before him in the White House on Thursday, the president noted that many of them were working mothers — and that he had been a working father, raising two boys, after his first wife and infant daughter were killed in a 1972 car accident. Most of the jobs in Build Back Better would be sperry shoes in fields like early childhood education and home health care, which are dominated by women. The $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan, conversely, is estimated to heavily favor male-dominated fields like construction.

In a significant victory, progressives ensured that expanded child tax credits would remain part of Build Back Better. So would the $555 billion devoted to climate change.

“We are once again going to be the innovators,” Biden said, envisioning how wind turbines and solar panels would be made in the United States, not rival nations like China.

Whether all that is enough to satisfy progressives while keeping centrists from fleeing will become apparent in the coming days. If progressives decide to withhold support for the infrastructure bill, Senate moderates would likely retaliate by sinking Build Back Better, thus leading to a collapse of Biden’s entire domestic spending agenda.

“No one got everything they wanted,” Biden said back at the White House, as negotiations furiously continued on Capitol Hill. The president will watch those negotiations from Europe.

In Rural Afghanistan, War Remnants Everywhere, but No Shooting or Checkpoints

A destroyed Afghan police pickup and Humvee next to a grave along Highway 1 just outside Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 9, 2021. (Jim Huylebroek/The New York Times)
A destroyed Afghan police pickup and Humvee next to a grave along Highway 1 just outside Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 9, 2021.

CHAK-E WARDAK, Afghanistan — Sixty bone-rattling miles southwest of Kabul, remnants of America’s longest war are abundant. Pillaged outposts scatter the hilltops, and skeletons of burned-out police pickup trucks and Humvees litter the road that weaves through the valleys in between.

The walls of an American-constructed local government building in Chak-e Wardak, a district in Wardak province, are pockmarked by the impacts of recently fired bullets and rockets. Holes have been carved out of the walls for shooting positions, hoka shoes and only a few of the glass windows remain intact.

But the once-constant volley of rifle fire is no more.

In recent years, driving out of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, would evoke fear of pop-up Taliban checkpoints at which young fighters pulled passengers out of cars, looking for government workers or members of the security forces. Getting caught up in an impromptu shootout between the two warring sides was always a risk.

But since the Taliban takeover in mid-August, the majority of Afghanistan’s countryside has seen a substantial drop in violence. Where airstrikes and pitched battles would be commonplace, the guns have fallen silent. The checkpoints have mostly disappeared.

In their place is a developing humanitarian crisis and a new Taliban government that at times seems just as unaccustomed to governing as many Afghans are to living in a period without fighting.

Millions of Afghans are facing a winter of food shortages, with up to 1 million children at risk of starvation in the absence of an immediate international relief effort, United Nations officials say.

Adding to the misery, prices for basic foodstuffs have risen sharply, and many Afghan families are being forced to make do with rice and beans instead of chicken and other meats.

For now, though, in the Chak-e Wardak district, a patchwork of apple orchards and villages, as in many other areas of the country, there is widespread relief at the end of the fighting and the return to something like normal life.

On the second floor of the ransacked district administrative center, the newly appointed Taliban police chief, Qari Assad, sits in an old chair. On his desk, rests an even older Kalashnikov and a makeshift Taliban flag with a hand-drawn “Kalima Shahada,” the text of the Islamic oath, at its center.

The black-bearded and turbaned Assad had just started on his second glass of green tea on a recent Thursday when two brothers from the neighboring Sayedabad district arrived with a complaint.

“The man who married my daughter didn’t tell us he already had a wife,” hey dude said Talab Din, his fingers brushing through his graying beard. “My daughter told me to let it be, she said she was happy with him. But now he has beat her and stabbed her in the leg. We have come here to settle this dispute!” He showed no fear of the new police chief, having interacted with the Taliban in the past.

“We will be dealing with this issue immediately,” Assad assured the father.

Long before their full takeover, the Taliban were already governing and delivering swift justice in many areas, often through their own court system. Chak-e Wardak, along with many parts of rural Afghanistan, has been under their de facto control for two years.

But the question remains whether the movement, which has brutally put down protests in urban areas against its rule, can pivot to a solid governance structure soon enough to cope with the problems underlying the country’s gathering humanitarian crisis.

Outside the local government building, Fazl Ur-Rahman, 55, was adjusting the load of his small truck, piled high with hay. “Before, security here was very bad, we were suffering at the hands of the military,” he said, referring to the Afghan army. “They were beating people, they were asking people to take water and food to their checkpoints.”

The situation had improved under the Taliban in recent weeks, he said, and people could safely return to work. “Before, people could not go anywhere at night, they would be at risk of being shot,” he said. “It has been a long time now since a bullet hit our homes.”

Further west up the valley, another Taliban flag was waving atop the oldest hydroelectric dam in the country. Built in 1938, its turbines once provided electricity for surrounding parts of Wardak, plus Ghazni province and even parts of Kabul province, but poor maintenance had rendered it defunct.

As a nomadic woman guided her sheep across the dam, Afghan boys took turns jumping into the water below, a welcome relief from the scorching sun.

Up the hill from the dam’s basin is the home of the Ayoubi family, who had been displaced to another village two years ago as the fighting intensified. In early August, the family returned after the fighting ended to a house flanked by a lush garden filled with pumpkins planted by a caretaker.

Over a lunch of rice, tomatoes and corn, Abdullah Ayoubi, the oldest son, spoke about the atrocities that had occurred in the valley. “There is no doubt that the Taliban dr martens boots are also corrupt, but it doesn’t compare to what the military was like,” he said. “Not only did they take money from the vans and trucks, if someone had a big beard, they would say they are Taliban and hurt them.”

Ayoubi said his brother Assad was in the ninth grade when the Afghan and U.S. armies came to the district, looking for a Taliban commander who went by the same name. They grabbed his brother instead, he said, and took him to Bagram prison, notorious for its harsh treatment of prisoners, where he was tortured.

“It took us four months before we found him,” Abdullah Ayoubi said. “When we went to visit him in Bagram, he shouted at me with chains on his legs and handcuffs around his wrists.”

After 18 months, Assad was released. Because of how angry he was, Ayoubi said, he joined a local Taliban commander named Ghulam Ali.

He became an expert in shooting Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenades. On his phone, Ayoubi has a grainy image taken from a video. It showed an unrecognizable man enveloped by fire, smoke and dust.

“In this moment, my brother shot a tank with a rocket,” he said, though the vehicle appeared to be an Afghan army Humvee.

In 2019, Assad was killed during a battle with Afghan soldiers not far from the family home. He had been a fighter for five years. “We buried him near the house,” Ayoubi said.

In this now-sleepy valley, the main landmark is a hospital founded in 1989 by a German woman, Karla Schefter. Today, the hospital is supported by the Committee for Medical and Humanitarian Aid in Afghanistan, which relies on private donations.

Faridullah Rahimi, a doctor at the facility, said that in his 22 years there, this was the first time there were no patients with conflict-related injuries.

“People from way beyond Chak come here for treatment,” said Rahimi, standing in the hospital’s verdant courtyard. “We used to treat civilians, government soldiers and Taliban fighters, and never had an issue.”

For now, the doctor said, the hospital had enough medical supplies, but with most banks closed, it had no money to purchase more or to pay them their salaries.

Still, Rahimi said, the hospital would continue operating as best it could. “We have seen regimes come and go, but the hospital will remain.”

Of the 65 employees at the hospital, 14 are women. The Taliban have said they would allow women to continue working in health care in order to treat female patients.

Malalai, 28, a midwife who works at the hospital and uses only one name, said members of the Taliban had visited the facility and spoken to her. “I have been working here for eight years,” she said. “For us, there is no threat from the Islamic Emirate.”

Near the hospital entrance, a Russian tank from a previous war was almost completely submerged in the sand — a stark reminder of just how long this area has seen war.

Back at the Ayoubi home, Abdullah spoke softly as his son, 2, napped in the corner, tucked underneath a scarf. Perhaps he would be part of a generation in Afghanistan that grew up without ever knowing war.

“Assad, named after my brother,” Ayoubi said, pointing at the child. “It didn’t have to be this way.”

Here come the vaccine mandates

As the hypercontagious Delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread across the country, more and more businesses and government agencies are pushing policy changes to mandate vaccinations against the virus.

The latest flurry of changes arrived over the past week and stretch across many aspects of American life, including everything from basic employment obligations to recreational activities like going to the gym or taking a cruise ship.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams ruled that Norwegian ecco shoes Cruise Lines can defy a law signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and require that passengers leaving from the state show written proof of coronavirus vaccination before they board a ship starting on Aug. 15.

“We are pleased that Judge Williams saw the facts, the law and the science as we did and granted the Company’s motion for preliminary injunction allowing us to operate cruises from Florida with 100% vaccinated guests and crew,” Daniel Farkas, Norwegian’s executive vice president, said in a statement. (Florida plans to appeal the decision.)

Meanwhile, New York City announced last week that it would be the first U.S. city to require proof of vaccination for a range of activities, including indoor dining, music concerts and gyms.

Lloyd Austin
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

And in a memo released Monday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said he would ask President Biden to approve a plan to require COVID-19 vaccination for all members of the U.S. military by mid-September. Biden indicated his support for the plan.

“I have every confidence that Service leadership and your commanders will implement this new vaccination program with professionalism, skill, and compassion,” Austin said in the memo.

Over the weekend, the head of the American Federation of Teachers said vaccination should be required for all U.S. teachers. And Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, said Tuesday that he favors such a mandate.

“I’m going to upset people on this, but I think we should,” Fauci said during an interview with MSNBC, adding, brooks shoes “We are in a major surge now as we’re going into the fall, into the school season. This is very serious business.”

The Delta variant has been a key factor in this cascade of policy announcements, which has also included mask mandates in some localities and businesses.

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby cited the variant to explain his company’s decision to require employees to get vaccinated.

“The tipping point for me was seeing the statistics that 97 percent of the people in the hospital are unvaccinated and over 99 percent of the deaths are among the unvaccinated,” Kirby said in an interview with NBC News.

Over the past two weeks, new cases of COVID-19 are up 118 percent in the United States, especially among those who had not been vaccinated prior to being infected. Deaths from the disease are up 101 percent and now top 500 per day. While thousands of so-called breakthrough infections have been reported in people already vaccinated, the percentage of those hospitalized or killed is dramatically reduced among vaccinated people.

Anthony Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci testifying before a Senate committee in July. 

With hospitals in some states reaching capacity thanks to the Delta variant, however, the pace of vaccination has ticked back up.

Across the country, concert venues, universities skechers shoes and private companies from Disney to Walmart have rolled out policies mandating vaccines. The number is expected to grow dramatically when the Food and Drug Administration gives full approval to the COVID-19 vaccines currently being administered after receiving emergency use authorization.

“I hope — I don’t predict — I hope that it will be within the next few weeks. I hope it’s within the month of August,” Fauci said over the weekend. “If that’s the case, you’re going to see the empowerment of local enterprises, giving mandates that could be colleges, universities, places of business, a whole variety, and I strongly support that. The time has come. … We’ve got to go the extra step to get people vaccinated.”

Yet not all companies are preparing to join the ranks of those requiring vaccination, meaning that a patchwork of policies and requirements is likely to continue over the coming months.

‘Should We Sell?’ After Collapse, Hot Florida Market Faces Uncertainty

SURFSIDE, Fla. — Ines Mason bought the 14th-floor condo, perched on an island in Biscayne Bay, five years ago as a getaway, lured by the captivating view of the water. “In the morning, the sun rises, you can see that,” she said. “It’s amazing.”

But after seeing another high rise similar to her own collapse nearly two weeks ago in the nearby city of Surfside, suddenly her Florida escape turned into a source of anxiety. She became concerned about the structural integrity of her building, which is about 30 years old. hey dude She also worried about the financial return on her investment; her family had recently been contemplating putting the condo on the market and buying a town house.

“Should we sell it?” said Mason, a project manager who lives in Northern Virginia and travels to South Florida several times a year. “Should we not sell it? What should we do? We’re kind of just holding on tight and waiting to see.”

The partial collapse on June 24 of Champlain Towers South in Surfside has plunged older beachside condos and high-rise buildings like it into a swirl of uncertainty. Local government officials and condo associations are rushing inspections, some of them long overdue. Insurance companies are demanding proof that aging buildings have been evaluated or are threatening to cut off coverage.

And real estate agents across the region are bracing for how the disaster might ripple through an otherwise scorching housing market.

“No one ever asked about a 40-year recertification before,” Ines Hegedus-Garcia, a real estate agent with Avanti Way Realty in South Florida, said of the process of assessing the structural condition of buildings constructed decades ago. “Nobody ever did that, but buyers are now asking for that.”

Cordelia Anderson, a Miami real estate agent, said five clients who had been looking at units in older condo buildings asked for hefty discounts after the collapse, or abandoned the coast altogether and instead wanted to search farther inland.

At least half of Champlain Towers South, a 13-story, 136-unit complex, crumbled in the middle of the night, killing at least 28 people and touching off skechers outlet a desperate search for the 117 who remain missing. The disaster has revealed broader concerns about flaws in the management of similar developments and lax enforcement of what are considered some of the most strict building regulations in the country.

“This has kind of opened up everybody’s eyes,” said Mike Clarkson, president of Hilb Group of Florida, a national insurance brokerage that represents hundreds of condo associations in the state.

The coastline in South Florida and beyond has become increasingly dotted over the decades with residential towers that rise along the beaches. Many of them were built in the 1970s or earlier. Champlain Towers South was constructed in 1981.

But over time, a gulf has separated many of those developments, a disparity created by differences in upkeep and oversight. The divergence is easy to spot: There are the older complexes with pillars scarred with cracks and parking garages whose ceilings are splotched with patchwork fixes. And then there are other similarly aged buildings, experts said, that barely show their age.

In the aftermath of the collapse of the Champlain Towers South, government officials in and around Miami have ordered an immediate examination of hundreds of buildings. Already, there has been at least one alarming discovery: In North Miami Beach, residents of the 156-unit Crestview Towers, which was built in 1972, had only about an hour to clear out of their homes after authorities ordered it closed, citing a recertification report that documented cracks and corrosion in the building’s structure.

The collapse has also prompted a renewed push to ramp up oversight. Only two Florida counties, Miami-Dade and Broward, require a recertification process to audit buildings after 40 years. Some have also called for bolstering the education given to residents who serve on condo boards, better preparing them for the highly technical decisions they will face about the structural health of their buildings.

“You’re now going to be dealing with multimillion-dollar budgets,” said Travis Moore, a lobbyist in Florida who represents the Community Associations Institute, an organization training and supporting housing association board members and property managers. “You’re going to be dealing with engineers.”

There are more than 50,000 community associations governing condos and subdivisions in Florida, among the most in the nation. But many of those associations have been mired in apathy, as residents have been unable or unwilling to take on the task golden goose sneakers of running their residences. “Often, we’ll have more vacancies on a board than willing candidates,” Moore said.

But the disaster has underscored the many challenges — social, financial, environmental — confronting aging complexes.

As the skyline has become crowded with gleaming new towers that are packed with luxury amenities and carry staggering price tags, the older buildings, which have typically drawn a mix of middle-income buyers and retirees, have also become increasingly difficult to afford. Many purchased their units decades ago and have been burdened in recent years by a surge in fees, levied by condo associations, to pay for needed repairs.

Champlain Towers residents were facing assessments ranging from $80,000 to as high as $200,000 for repairs to address major problems with the building — sums that were not all that unusual for developments that old.

Those sites also have had to reckon with the added costs of living in a coastal environment, like shifting sediment, subsidence and the corrosive effect of saltwater. “This is the first generation in the postwar period, thinking that we can engineer around the forces of nature,” said Jesse Keenan, a professor studying housing and climate adaptation at Tulane University. “These buildings are reaching the end of their useful life.”

But analysts said condo owners have often been more willing to plow money into aesthetic improvements and new amenities than structural improvements that were costly, intrusive to make and weren’t entirely obvious to the naked eye.

Fernanda Siqueira, who lives in a two-bedroom unit just a few blocks from what was Champlain Towers South, said her building, built less than two decades ago, is in need of significant repairs, some of which are currently underway. Nine years after purchasing her condo in 2009, she was assessed a $20,000 fee — $350 a month.

“It’s the hidden costs of buying into a condo,” she said.

And there are other complications: Soon after last month’s collapse, a number of insurance providers sent letters to condo owners demanding that they submit proof that their buildings had passed inspections, The Miami Herald reported.

Insurance on buildings and individual units had already been a problem vexing older beachside condo complexes, as they have grappled with the recurring threat of hurricanes and tropical storms as well as the effects of climate change. Insurance companies have pulled back in recent years in their willingness to cover these properties, Clarkson said, and rates have soared.

“It’s getting harder and harder to find what I could consider a legitimate company to come in and write a building like those,” he said, referring to insurers willing to cover such sites.

Beachside condos, in his view, have a measure of built-in resilience. “I don’t think the condo market is ever going to go anyplace,” he said. “How do you not want to come down here and open your windows in the morning, open your slider in the morning, and have a nice breeze come in?”

“It’s a question,” he added, “of shoring up the buildings.”

Still, the disaster has ratcheted up concerns and stoked fears about how older buildings might fare in the local real estate market, which, like in much of the country, has been booming in recent months.

In Miami-Dade County, condos costing $1 million or more have seen a surge in demand this year, with a 300% boost in sales from January through May over the same period last year, according to an analysis of sales data by Ana Bozovic, a broker and founder of Analytics Miami. Condos costing less than $1 million saw a 92% increase from last year.

Imminent inspections could drive up both repair costs and buyers’ caution, leaving residents who want to sell their homes, like Mason, in precarious positions, Bozovic said.

Selling entire buildings to a developer may become attractive options, she said. And those developers could demolish the building and start from scratch, pricing out residents who have sat on their investments.

That is what Siqueira most fears, that the value of her condo will diminish while the costs of living in it grow. If she sells, she will have no choice but to leave the coast.

“The money I’m going to get, it’s impossible to buy — not even a small house in a worse neighborhood,” she said. “I’m looking at moving from the beach to the Everglades.”

Should ‘Bachelor’ Stars Have Received PPP Loans?

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MAY 17: In this image released on May 17, Tayshia Adams attends the 2021 MTV Movie & TV Awards: UNSCRIPTED in Los Angeles, California.

Several contestants from “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” were asked this past week to explain to their fans why they applied for government loans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bachelor subreddit was abuzz after posts drew attention to public records that showed that several contestants had applied to the government’s Paycheck Protection Program. Some were able to receive loans in excess of $20,000. As the numbers circulated on Reddit and later in Vulture, fans questioned whether the reality stars were the intended beneficiaries of the program, as many contestants have parlayed their newfound fame into careers as influencers, podcasters and entertainers.

Many influencers are able to build their brands and create content by hiring employees and working hey dude shoes through LLCs. These small businesses were like many others that took PPP loans to stay afloat, but the optics were different for “Bachelor” stars, who often promote aspirational lifestyles after the show ends.

The $800 billion Paycheck Protection Program, which ended May 31, offered companies forgivable loans of up to $10 million to cover roughly two months of payroll and a handful of other expenses, such as rent. Applicants were not required to demonstrate any financial harm from the pandemic; they simply had to certify that “current economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary” to support their continuing operations.

Last year, most sole proprietorships — companies that employ no one other than the business’s owner — had to be profitable to qualify for a loan. But in late February, the Biden administration changed that rule, making millions of previously excluded businesses eligible for relief money. Recipients are required to use most of the cash to pay workers, including themselves.

After the loan requirements were relaxed, nearly every small business in America legally qualified for help. Loan recipients included white-shoe law firms, political lobbyists, anti-vaccine activists, the restaurant chains TGI Fridays and P.F. Chang’s, and companies created by sports stars such as Tom Brady and Floyd Mayweather.

Also on that list: a slew of cast members from Bachelor Nation. Tayshia Adams, who starred on “The Bachelorette” in 2020 and is now a co-host of the show after Chris Harrison’s departure, was among them. She received $20,833 in January for payroll expenses at her company, Tayshia Adams Media LLC, according to public records.

Representatives for Adams declined to comment for this article.

The Colton Underwood Legacy Foundation — founded by Colton Underwood, a star of “The Bachelor” in 2019 — received a PPP loan of $11,355. The organization, which assists people living with cystic fibrosis, applied for the loan after its annual fundraiser was canceled because of the pandemic, according to Underwood’s publicist, Cindy Guagenti.

“None of the PPP went directly to Colton,” Guagenti said in an email. “In fact, Colton has never received any form of payment from the foundation; all of the proceeds go directly to people living with cystic fibrosis.”

In an Instagram post Monday that has since been deleted, Underwood distanced himself from the reality TV ecco shoes show and explained why he received the loan.

Lauren Burnham and Arie Luyendyk Jr., a couple who met on the show and married, were funded $20,830, the maximum amount for a PPP loan to a sole proprietor, through their company Instagram Husband in June 2020, according to public records. The couple have more than 200,000 subscribers on YouTube and have leaned into the influencer lifestyle after their appearance on the reality show. In April, for example, the couple posted a video tour of their freshly purchased second home in Hawaii to their YouTube account.

Records show that Dale Moss, who received the final rose on the 16th season of “The Bachelorette,” also applied for a PPP loan for $20,830, according to public records. Moss’ loan was approved, but it has not been disbursed yet.

Other former “Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” contestants chimed in on the loans some contestants have received. Nick Viall, who appeared on several seasons of the franchise, was critical of the loan recipients on Twitter.

“What’s legal isn’t always right. What’s illegal isn’t always wrong,” he wrote.

“We’re talking about doing the right thing and I’m not trying to sound all righteous,” Viall added in a TikTok video Wednesday. “I can’t imagine any of these people thought anyone would look. If you’re going to take public funds and you’re going to be on a public platform, ecco shoesyou’re going to be open to criticism. It’s semantics to pretend it was the right thing to do.”

Jason Tartick, a contestant on the 14th season of “The Bachelorette,” posted a four-minute video to his Instagram account explaining why he didn’t apply for a PPP loan, even though he considered it.

“I came very close to filling one out,” Tartick said in the video. “But I just thought, ‘It’s not fair.’ That was why I didn’t do it.”

Culture of Corruption: ex-UAW leader gets 28-month sentence

DETROIT (AP) — He plotted to steal up to $1.5 million in union dues, and ecco shoes the money he diverted was spent on golf clubs, vacation homes, booze and lavish meals, fostering a culture of corruption within the United Auto Workers union.

Now former UAW president Gary Jones will have to spend 28 months in a federal prison and repay thousands of dollars for his crimes.

Jones, 64, was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge Paul Borman in Detroit after pleading guilty to two counts of conspiracy last year. Borman ordered that Jones surrender for his term in 90 days and recommended a low-security federal prison in Seagoville, Texas, so he would be close to his wife who now lives near Dallas.

Before sentencing, Jones choked up in the courtroom as he apologized to his family and union members for his actions. “I failed them. I failed the UAW that golden goose sneakers elected me as president,” he told Borman. “All I can say is I’m sorry I let them down, I let my family down.”

Federal sentencing guidelines called for Jones to get 46 to 57 months in prison due to his high position in the union. But prosecutors asked for 28 months because Jones accepted responsibility and cooperated as the government went after his cohorts in a wide-ranging probe of union corruption.

“He was willing to assist in any way,” Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gardey told the court. “And he was truthful.”

Gardey said that in many ways, Jones is a good man who worked in a “culture of corruption,” following the crowd of other union leaders who thought they were “entitled to get ours.” He said Jones helped with prosecution of Dennis Williams, who preceded Jones as president.

But Gardey also said Jones’ crimes were serious and have scarred the union and destroyed skechers outlet members’ confidence in their leaders. He recommended that Borman issue a sentence that would let labor unions know that this behavior won’t be tolerated.

Eleven union officials and a late official’s spouse have pleaded guilty in the corruption probe since 2017, although not all the crimes were connected. The first wave of convictions, which included some Fiat Chrysler employees, involved money from a Fiat Chrysler-UAW training center in Detroit.

But the union was able to hold off a possible government takeover by agreeing to spending controls, a court-appointed monitor to oversee operations for six years, and an election for members to decide if they want to vote directly for union leaders rather than choosing delegates to a convention.

Millions in union dues will now go toward funding the court-appointed monitor, and the UAW had to pay significant attorney’s fees for officials who were charged, Gardey wrote in a sentencing memo.

Jones, now of Corsicana, Texas, south of Dallas, also will have to repay $550,000 to the union and another $42,000 to the Internal Revenue Service. But his liability could be lower depending on amounts paid by other defendants, including Williams.

He also was fined $10,000, and he’ll have to forfeit more than $151,000, including money in two bank accounts, plus a set of golf clubs seized by authorities at the Missouri regional office where Jones was director before becoming president.

Gardey told Borman that hey dude shoes Jones will help in other matters as the UAW investigation continues, as well as help the union monitor with internal disciplinary cases. He said it’s possible prosecutors will return to the court and ask Borman to recognize that cooperation, presumably with a lighter sentence.

Gardey blamed the scandal on what he said was a lack of democracy in the union, which lacked financial controls and had no opposition to leadership. “There is no opportunity to provide checks and balances to abuse of power,” Gardey said. Instead, he said the union is dominated by its administrative caucus, which curried favor of leaders rather than serving members.

Jones led the 400,000-member union from June 2018 until November 2019, when he stepped down as the investigation skechers shoes intensified.

Prosecutors alleged that he conspired with at least six other high-level union officials. He let some of them vacation with their families at union expense for months at a time at villas in Palm Springs, California. He spent union money on lavish meals, and over $60,000 on cigars, entertainment, booze and rounds of golf.

During the scheme, UAW leaders took over $100,000 worth of clothing, golf equipment and other items. Jones also took $45,000 in cash for his own use.

“The exorbitance was jaw-dropping,” Gardey wrote in the memo.

Jones spent on other senior officials because of his “desire to obtain and retain power” in the union, the memo said.

Jones’ lawyer, J. Bruce Maffeo of New York, wrote that Jones should get a lower sentence because of his cooperation, and because most of the crimes to which he pleaded guilty took place when he was a regional director in St. Louis, before he was was elected UAW president.

His crimes continued practices put in place brooks shoes by other union officials, including former president Dennis Williams, Maffeo wrote. In May, Williams was sentenced to 21 months in prison as part of the same embezzlement scheme.

Judge Borman said the criminal conduct was a bad period in Jones’ life, but he lived a “wonderful period” for most of his life. “I’m sure that he henceforth will continue on the good side of the street,” the judge said.

Stimulus check update: Will Congress say yes to a fourth payment?

It’s been more than two months since the third round of COVID stimulus checks began hitting brooks shoesAmericans’ bank accounts. For many U.S. households still having trouble paying the bills because of the pandemic, that $1,400 payment is probably long gone.

Millions of everyday Americans — and a growing number of influential lawmakers — say the government needs to continue providing direct relief until the crisis is no longer squeezing the economy.

Though the housing market is booming and some other economic numbers are looking up, unemployment rose last month and retail sales slowed.

The White House says stimulus checks “are not free,” and that it’s up to Congress to decide whether to pay out more of them. skechers shoesWill House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow lawmakers give you a fourth stimulus check? Here’s what we know.

More citizens and lawmakers press for a fourth check

Extreme close-up of Federal coronavirus stimulus check provided to all Americans from the United States Treasury in 2020, showing the statue of liberty.

Many Americans are eager for a fourth stimulus check.

Search traffic for the term “fourth stimulus check” remains high, according to Google Trends, and signatures continue to grow on an online petition pleading for more relief. More than 2.2 million people have now added their names.

The Change.org petition asks Congress “to support families with a $2,000 payment for adults and a $1,000 payment for kids immediately, and continuing regular checks for the duration of the crisis.”

In the latest pitch from lawmakers themselves, seven members of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee have sent a letter to President Joe Biden, urging him to include direct payments in his new $1.8 trillion proposal to provide more help to families.

The lawmakers say the last $1,400 check was not enough to get households through the year. A fourth and fifth check, they argue, could keep an additional 12 million people out of poverty.

“The pandemic has served as a stark reminder that families and workers need certainty in a crisis,” says the letter, signed last week. “They deserve to know they can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.”

Checks unspent, White House unmoved

WASHINGTON, DC -21 FEB 2020- View of the White House in Washington DC, the executive residence of the President of the United States.
Data from the U.S. Cckensus Bureau shows the majority of stimulus money is still being spent on basic necessities, including food, rent, mortgage payments and utilities.

And while some people have used their cash to invest in the sizzling stock market, others have bought nonessential but necessary things like clothing and affordable life insurance. Demand for those policies has surged during the pandemic.

At the same time, a new report reveals that more than 1 million stimulus checks have gone unspent.

IRS data obtained by the Boston Herald shows 1.24 million checks from last year’s very first coronavirus aid package were never cashed.

When asked whether the Biden administration would back a fourth stimulus check, to keep providing Americans with support while the COVID crisis lingers, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki kicked the question to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

“We’ll see what members of Congress propose, but those (checks) are not free,” Psaki said earlier this month.

What’s happening in Congress

Given the cost, the most recent stimulus checks faced resistance from both Republicans and Democrats when Biden’s pandemic rescue bill was debated in March.

Because Democrats control the House and Senate by the thinnest of margins, eligibility for the payments had to be “targeted” away from higher earners to keep moderate Senate Democrats in the fold.

If a new round of stimulus checks were to face simple majority votes in Congress — which is possible under the arcane budget process used for that last COVID relief bill — there’s no guarantee of passage.

Still, congressional Democrats have been calling for recurring stimulus payments for the duration of the pandemic since early this year.

“We need to meet the moment by delivering monthly payments of $2,000,” Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar said in January when she and more than 50 other lawmakers sent Biden a letter urging him to support regular stimulus checks.

In March, more than 20 Democratic senators signed a similar letter.

So far there’s been little response from Democratic leadership. Speaker Pelosi this month said passing Biden’s infrastructure and families plans was the “urgent” priority. She has said nothing about adding recurring payments, or just a fourth stimulus check, to either proposal.

If you need more stimulus now

young woman with her husband calculate home budget in the kitchen

For now, at least, a fourth stimulus check is looking doubtful. If you need more relief, you’ll probably need to find it on your own — and you have several places to look:

Your insurance bills. Because people have been driving less during the pandemic, some car insurance companies have been offering discounts. If your insurer isn’t one of them, it may be time to shop around for a better deal. A little comparison shopping also might help you save hundreds on homeowners insurance.

Your mortgage. If you’re a homeowner and haven’t refinanced your loan in the last year, you could be missing out on some game-changing savings. Rates recently fell to their lowest levels in months, and mortgage data and technology provider Black Knight estimated that 13 million homeowners could save an average $283 a month by refinancing.

Your credit card bills. Credit cards may have been a life-saver during the pandemic, but the high interest costs can kill your budget. You might pay off your debts more quickly and affordably by rolling your balances into a lower-interest debt consolidation loan.

Your everyday spending. Cancel streaming services and any other monthly subscriptions you’re not using. Resist the urge to order dinner deliveries, plan out home-cooked meals, and go to the grocery store with a list you’ll stick to. And, download a free browser add-on that will automatically hunt for better prices and coupons whenever you shop online.

The stock market. (Really.) You don’t need to be rich and don’t need another stimulus check to get in on today’s record-breaking stock market action. A popular app helps you grow a diversified portfolio by using nothing more than “spare change.”