Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Mar 6, 2019 in Stuff You Should Know

Cohen Takes on Trump

On February 27, Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, gave shocking testimony before Congress, accusing the president of a series of lies in both his personal and professional life. According to Cohen, Trump knew about a meeting his son held with Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential campaign, in which the Russian government offered to help with his campaign, and which Trump has previously denied knowing anything about. Also, according to Cohen, candidate Trump knew about the WikiLeaks emails from Hillary Clinton before they were made public. This is also something that Trump has denied. Moreover, Cohen stated, the president had been working with powerful Russians on a business deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. In fact, Cohen testified that it was possible that Trump himself had been compromised, and that he or members of his family were willing to work secretly with the Russians.

As if these claims weren’t enough, Cohen also revealed information about Trump’s personal life, including that he paid off women to hide his extramarital relationships and that the president lied about the medical deferments which kept him out of the draft during the Vietnam War. Cohen even claimed that Trump has lied about his own wealth to appear higher up in rankings of wealthy Americans.

Republicans responded even before Cohen’s testimony was given, saying that it was wrong to trust the word of a man who has already been convicted of lying and perjury. (Cohen will serve three years in prison for political and financial crimes.) Cohen stated that he understood why people would doubt his word; however, he insisted, his days of lying at the request of Mr. Trump were now over.

What Do You Think? Do you believe Michael Cohen’s testimony? Why or why not?

Healthcare for All?

If you’ve been paying any attention at all to the 2020 presidential race, you’ve likely heard about single-payer health care–or as it’s more popularly termed, “Medicare for all.” This idea, first made popular by Senator Bernie Sanders during his first run for the presidency in 2016, has gained traction among several of this year’s Democratic candidates. But what exactly does it mean?

Single-payer health care basically means that all citizens receive basic health care, which the government is in charge of, and which is paid for by taxes. This is a controversial idea for many reasons. Most Americans are in favor of giving everyone access to basic health care, without excluding people for their age or pre-existing conditions. But this idea becomes a lot less popular once people find out that they might have to pay more in taxes in order to fund it. Democratic candidates are now faced with a tricky dilemma: if they don’t support a system such as Medicare for all, they run the risk of alienating progressive voters. But if they are in favor of it–and the tax hike it could cause–they may anger more moderate Democratic voters.

In recent speeches, Sen. Kamala Harris (California) has endorsed Medicare for all, saying she would go so far as to eliminate all private insurance companies. (Harris later backpedaled on this statement after facing criticism.) Senator Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (New York) have also expressed support for such a bill, created by Senator Bernie Sanders (Vermont), that would create a national single-payer system.

What Do You Think? Imagine that you are a presidential candidate. Do you believe that access to health care is the right of every American? Why or why not? If you do, how would you pay for such a system?

Leaving Luck

The new animated film Luck will not feature the voice of actress Emma Thompson after all. That’s because Thompson has walked away from the project. Why? She refuses to work for Skydance Media after the studio recently hired John Lasseter. Lasseter is the former chief creative officer for Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, but he lost that job in November 2017, when he faced several accusations of sexual harassment.

In a powerful letter to Skydance Media management, Thompson pointed out that a man with a career-long history of inappropriate behavior was unlikely to stop doing it now, despite what it says in his contract. Thompson said that while she was sad about stepping away from the film (because she regards its director very highly), she feels that if women such as herself don’t take a stand against sexual harassment, nothing will really change for the next generation of women and girls.

Skydance responded with a statement recognizing Lasseter’s contributions to the animation industry and also said that in the year since leaving Disney/Pixar, Lasseter has apologized for his past mistakes and agreed to work toward resolving them. But Thompson says that’s not good enough, and that he should be held accountable for his actions.

The #MeToo movement has led to the removal of many male executives, directors, politicians, and more from their positions of power. What’s troubling, though, is that situations like Lasseter’s aren’t unique. A recent study shows that more than ten percent of high-profile men accused of sexual harassment have made some sort of comeback, or taken equivalent jobs that allow them to maintain their previous level of financial wealth.

Dig Deeper One of the things John Lasseter was accused of was inappropriately hugging female colleagues. In 2011, the Wall Street Journal published a photo essay of the forty-eight hugs Lasseter once gave on a single day. See if you can find this essay online. Does viewing it affect the way you feel about Thompson’s decision to leave Luck? Explain.

No More “Welcome to Walmart”?

Walmart image

Interior of a Walmart store. Credit: ©McGraw-Hill Education/John Flournoy

One of the first things everyone thinks about when they picture Walmart is the Walmart “greeter”–the person who stands at the door to say hello to you as you enter the store. But “Welcome to Walmart” is about to become a thing of the past, as the company has announced that it will be removing greeters from about a thousand of its stores nationwide by the end of April. Instead, it will replace them with “customer hosts”: employees whose job it is to help shoppers find things, or to assist security.

This isn’t just a charming little bit of Americana that’s going by the wayside. The announcement is especially devastating because a high proportion of Walmart greeters are people with disabilities who may not be able to transition to the new customer host role, which requires employees to be able to lift 25 pounds, collect carts, stand for long periods of time, and other physical demands that may be impossible for a physically-challenged employee to perform. Some of the impacted greeters have filed lawsuits and complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Walmart has agreed to extend the end-of-April cutoff for greeters with physical challenges, to give them extra time to figure out a new job. It expects to be able to find positions within the company for more than 80 percent of the displaced greeters. According to the Americans With Disabilities Act, it’s legal for companies to change their job descriptions and expectations, and that while employers in this situation may try to help an employee find a different job or can change job descriptions to suit a worker’s unique needs, they are not required to by law.

What Do You Think? According to what you’ve read and seen in the news, do you think Walmart has a responsibility to help find jobs for the greeters who have lost theirs? Explain.