As a grocery chain is dismantled, investors recover their money. Worker pensions are short millions

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Once the Marsh Supermarkets chain began to falter a few years ago, its owner, a private-equity firm, began selling off the vast retail empire, piece by piece. The company sold more than 100 convenience stores. It sold the pharmacies. It closed some of the 115 grocery stores, having previously auctioned off their real estate. Then, in May 2017, the company announced the closure of the remaining 44 stores.

Image: Washington Post

Marsh Supermarkets, founded in 1931, had at last filed for bankruptcy.

“It was a long, slow decline,” said Amy Gerken, formerly an assistant office manager at one of the stores. Sun Capital Partners, the private-equity firm that owned Marsh, “didn’t really know how grocery stores work. We’d joke about them being on a yacht without even knowing what a UPC code is. But they didn’t treat employees right, and since the bankruptcy, everyone is out for their blood.”

The anger arises because although the sell-off allowed Sun Capital and its investors to recover their money and then some, the company entered bankruptcy leaving unpaid more than $80 million in debts to workers’ severance and pensions.

For Sun Capital, this process of buying companies, seeking profits and leaving pensions unpaid is a familiar one. Over the past 10 years, it has taken five companies into bankruptcy while leaving behind debts of about $280 million owed to employee pensions.

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Posted by Libergirl


Trump promised he’d make Carrier ‘pay a damn tax.’ Instead he’s doing the exact opposite

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Image: Fifth Column

On Thursday, President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence plan to hold a news conference touting the deal they struck this week with United Technology to keep fewer than 1,000 Carrier jobs in Indiana.

In exchange for not outsourcing some jobs, United Technology, which made a profit of $7.6 billion last year and owns Carrier, will reportedly receive $7 million over 10 years in state economic incentives. The company was also assured the Trump administration will lower corporations’ federal tax burden and ease regulations.

In a Wednesday press release, Carrier acknowledged both the federal and state incentives.

“Today’s announcement is possible because the incoming Trump-Pence administration has emphasized to us its commitment to support the business community and create an improved, more competitive U.S. business climate,” it says. “The incentives offered by the state were an important consideration.”

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Our Coming Theocratic Hell: The Right’s “Religious Freedom” Push Is Just the Beginning

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By now, it’s clear that Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act was crafted to empower piously bigoted entrepreneurs and companies desirous of freelancing with their own “Jim Crow for gays” restrictions, and to let them cite as legal justification for doing so their precious religious sensibilities.  The RFRA, said the original text, sought to give judicial succor to those who found that their “exercise of religion . . . has been substantially burdened,” or was just “likely to be substantially burdened” by performing services for people their faith’s sacred credos enjoin them to abhor (gays, in this case).  The ensuing uproar in the media and business circles compelled Indiana’s state Senate toamend the legislation to prevent its deployment against the LBGT community, but state Democrats are still calling for its repeal.

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Posted by The NON-Conformist



The Big Lie The Media Tells About Indiana’s New ‘Religious Freedom’ Law

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On Friday, the Washington Post published an article titled “19 states that have ‘religious freedom’ laws like Indiana’s that no one is boycotting.” The article snarks about organizations like the NCAA that have protested Indiana’s law, noting “the NCAA didn’t say it was concerned over how athletes and employees would be affected by Kentucky’s RFRA when games were played there last week.” The piece concludes “Indiana might be treated as if it’s the only state with a bill like this, but it’s not.” The piece has been shared over 75,000 times on Facebook.


Image: CREDIT: ABC SCREENSHOT via Think Progess

The Washington Post article largely mirrors the argument advanced by Indiana Governor Mike Pence. Appearing on ABC’s This Week, Pence claimed “Then state-Sen. Barack Obama voted for [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act]. The very same language.”

The same argument is parroted on Fox News and elsewhere.

 It’s not true.


Posted by Libergirl


Indiana GOP passes law making it a crime for clergy to perform gay weddings

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In what appears to be a rather massive violation of the freedom of religion, the Republican party in Indiana appears to have amended the state criminal code to either make it a crime, or confirm that it remain a crime, for clergy to conduct weddings for gay couples.

While it is not widely known, numerous mainstream American religions permit gay nuptials. The faiths include reform Judaism, Evangelical Lutherans, Episcopalians, and the United Church of Christ, among others.

The amendment to the criminal code, which will go into effect on July 1, 2014, makes it a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of $1,000 for clergy “solemnize” a marriage of two men or two women.

IC 31-11-11-7
Solemnization of marriage between persons prohibited from marrying
Sec. 7. A person who knowingly solemnizes a marriage of individuals who are prohibited from marrying by IC 31-11-1 commits a Class B misdemeanor.
As added by P.L.1-1997, SEC.3.

The tricky part is coming up with a definition of what “solemnizing” is. Is solemnizing conducting the marriage service, providing the married couple with a document attesting to their marriage, and/or submitting that document to the state? Depending on what exact definition of solemnizing Indiana uses, preachers might be thrown in jail for practicing their faith.

One answer to this question appears to be in this section of the Indiana code, which makes clear that solemnization is something that happens before the marriage certificate is filed with the clerk:

IC 31-11-11-8
Failure to timely file marriage license and duplicate marriage certificate
Sec. 8. A person who:
(1) solemnizes a marriage; and
(2) fails to file the marriage license and a duplicate marriage certificate with the clerk of the circuit court not later than ninety (90) days after the date the marriage was solemnized;

Note how solemnization is mentioned as something other than filing the marriage license. Solemnization is looking more and more like conducting a solemn wedding service. And that’s what priests and preachers and rabbis do. And it’s no business of the government telling them what they can and cannot do in their own church, synagogue or mosque.

A successful effort by the Indiana Republican party, which controls the state House and Senate, to legislate the permitted, and banned, practices of Jews, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and other mainstream faiths would appear to fly smack in the face of ongoing religious right efforts to brand the civil rights of gays as a threat to religion. In fact, it is anti-gay bigots who are now threatening to throw mainstream clergy in jail for simply practicing their faith.

The amended criminal code also addresses gay couples that apply for a marriage license at the county clerk. But, contrary to some reports that are saying the legislature made it a felony to apply for a “gay” marriage license, at least one Indiana newspaper is claiming that the legislature actually decreased the existing penalty for gay couples attempting to marry from a maximum of three years to 18 months.

What the amended law does is change the “crime” of applying for a “gay” marriage license from a Class D felony to a Level 6 felony – Class D was the lowest rung in the old system, Level 6 is the lowest rung in the new system. And with at least one Indiana press outlet claiming that the new Level 6 penalty is actually less than the old Class D, it’s not clear whether this might actually be a change for the better.

Along those same lines, it would be interesting to know whether it was illegal under the old criminal code for clergy to “solemnize” same-sex nuptials, or whether this is a new crime. Regardless, the state Republican party either made it a crime, or intentionally kept it a crime, in the amended criminal code they just enacted into law. And it’s creepy as hell that the state of Indiana thinks it can tell mainstream American religions how to practice their faith.

It’s one thing for Republicans to be anti-gay (and anti-black, anti-women, anti-Latino…), but I never thought I’d see the day they’d throw clergy in jail. That day just arrived in GOP-controlled Indiana.

UPDATE: So the story gets even more interesting. As I suspected, both laws were already on the books. Which still begs the question of why it’s illegal in Indiana for clergy to perform a gay marriage? The Republican legislature amended the very part of the law dealing with marriage penalties, and they chose to leave in place the part that makes solemnizing gay nuptials illegal. This, at the same time that anti-gay Republicans in the state, including the GOP governor, now want to pass a state constitutional ban on gay marriage, when such a ban already exists legislatively in the state.

Mind you, after the recent Supreme Court decision on DOMA, such bans – legislative or constitutional – are likely invalid under the US Constitution. But don’t let that stop Republicans from focusing like a laser beam on the most important issue facing their party – how to deflect attention away from the fact that they no longer have any ideas.

by John Aravosis/American Blog

Posted by The NON-Conformist


Battered city of Gary, Ind., considers shrinking 40 percent to save itself

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Images: NBC News

 No matter which direction Arthur Joe looks from his home, he sees abandoned properties and the blight they attract.

Next door is an empty house where “drugheads” – as Joe calls them – often set up camp. Behind is a duplex with trash visible through every broken window, and an alley clogged with refuse spilling from several abandoned lots.

Across the street is a vacant house owned by Joe’s landlord. Joe mows the grass there, vowing “we’re going to put it back together.”

For decades, Gary has been ravaged by economic decline and a long, deep housing bust, and putting it back together won’t be easy. Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson thinks letting vast swaths of her once-prosperous city, the birthplace of Michael Jackson, return to nature might be a solution.

“I’d like to see 100,000 folks in Gary. That’d be great,” the mayor said recently, walking through a neighborhood where empty lots and structures outnumber occupied homes. “We could probably do it in 35 square miles.” That’s 25 percent more residents on nearly 40 percent less land.

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Indiana woman on death row since she was 16 to be released

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Images: NBC News

An Indiana woman put on death row at age 16 for killing an elderly Bible school teacher is scheduled to be released Monday after serving a prison term that was shortened after the state Supreme Court intervened.

Paula Cooper’s death sentence at such a young age sparked international protests and a plea for clemency from Pope John Paul II. Now 43 years old, Cooper is being given a second chance at her life.

Cooper was 15 when she and three other teenage girls showed up at Ruth Pelke’s house on May 14, 1985, with plans of robbing the 78-year-old Bible school teacher. Pelke let Cooper and two of the teen’s companions into her Gary home after they told her they were interested in Bible lessons.

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