WASHINGTON – The Trump administration has not yet repaid the United States Postal Service more than six months after the agency sent out COVID-19 guidelines on postcards prominently featuring the president’s name.
USA TODAY reported earlier this year the total cost of printing and mailing the postcards was $28 million, with a total printing cost of $4.6 million, and the Trump administration was negotiating the reimbursement with the Postal Service for the cost.
But the bill for the postcards sent to 138 million residential addresses has still not been paid.
“No reimbursements have been made at this time,” said Postal Service spokesperson David Partenheimer.
“President Trump’s coronavirus guidelines for America” was emblazoned on one side of the postcard in uppercase letters. The other side of the card included social distancing recommendations, encouraging Americans to avoid restaurants and bars, forgo discretionary travel and cancel social gatherings with more than 10 people.
Trump took fire at the time from some people who said he politicized the distribution of public health information.
Postcard cost: Coronavirus postcard that featured Trump’s name cost struggling Postal Service $28 million
The White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not respond to a request for comment.
The Postal Service faces financial troubles, having lost money every year for at least a decade. In the 2019 fiscal year, the Postal Service recorded $71 billion in revenue and more than $80 billion in expenses, or a roughly $9 billion loss.
Almost all of the agency’s funding comes from charging for mail, according to a May 2020 report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. But mail volumes have decreased while expenses have increased. The agency also faces a large unfunded pension liability and an aging fleet of vehicles. USPS said last year 144,000 of its vehicles were over 20 years old.
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Postmaster General Louis DeJoy made efforts to cut costs across the agency, which led to nationwide mail delays earlier this year. The changes placed the Postal Service in the middle of a political firestorm as mail delays sparked alarm among lawmakers who feared the agency would be unable to handle an expected surge of mail-in ballots this November. DeJoy defended the cuts and changes to service as necessary to put the agency on a long-term path to financial sustainability, but under bipartisan pressure, he paused the changes until after Election Day.
“The President has made a career stiffing his contractors, and the US Postal Service is no different,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., the chairman of the government operations subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. “The Trump administration has a responsibility to reimburse the USPS.”
Mark Dimondstein, the president of the American Postal Workers Union, which represents more than 200,000 employees of the Postal Service, told USA TODAY the Trump administration was undermining the finances of the Postal Service by not paying for the postcards and it was as if “they expected the service for free.”
“We’re all expected to pay our bills when we use the service,” he said, adding that under normal circumstances, large mailings like the postcards would be paid in advance.
“It should be the same standard for this administration,” he said.
The House’s agenda: House returns Monday for busy session with pandemic, shutdown, marijuana on agenda
Trump has criticized the agency over its finances and called the controversy over the Postal Service is a “hoax.” He’s also said mail-in voting would lead to increased voter fraud. An analysis from the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice found 491 cases of absentee voter fraud from 2000 to 2012.
The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed $25 billion in additional funding for the Postal Service last month, but the Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to act on the legislation.
Contributing: John Fritze
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus: Trump admin. hasn’t paid USPS for March COVID-19 postcard
Police training cited as defense in many use-of-force cases. But experts say it’s outdated.
Earlier this month in Salt Lake City, police officers walked a suburban street looking for a 13-year-old boy with autism. His mother had just told police that the teen might have a gun, hated cops and was experiencing a psychological break.
Less than 20 minutes later, one of the officers shot the boy after a short foot chase despite a colleague telling him earlier she didn’t want to get into a shoot-out with an emotionally disturbed kid.
“If it’s a psych problem and she (the mother) is out of the house, I don’t see why we need to approach in my opinion,” an unidentified female cop tells her male colleague in a video released by Salt Lake City late Monday, later adding: ”I’m not about to get into a shooting because he’s upset. Sorry.”
The teen survived, but the incident is just the latest in a string of high-profile, use-of-force encounters fueling an ongoing national debate sparked by the Memorial Day death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
Other such incidents this year include the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin; the fatal restraint of Daniel Prude in Rochester, New York; and the response by Aurora, Colorado, police to a mistaken case of a stolen vehicle during which police forced a woman and four girls out of their car at gunpoint to lay face-down on the ground.
In almost all such cases, officers say they acted consistent with their training, a common defense used against excessive force allegations. But experts told USA TODAY that law enforcement training is often outdated and promotes a react first, think later mentality — ultimately validating officers’ decisions even when they appear to defy logic.
“The officer makes that decision in the heat of the moment, and then their supervisors and you and me and everyone else looks at it afterwards,” said Geoff Alpert, a University of South Carolina criminology professor.
Alpert said he’s never seen a police officer admit to acting unreasonably in any of the thousands of police shootings he’s reviewed over the past four decades. “Of course they’re going to say that [they were following their training], wouldn’t you?”
Slowing Down the Clock
Police scholars for decades have studied why some law enforcement encounters with civilians turn violent.
Sometimes it’s unavoidable in the high-stakes context of policing. But experts said current training methods exacerbate the odds of violence by instilling in officers a fear that their lives are at constant risk. To protect themselves, they’re taught to make snap judgments. This “culture of urgency,” the experts said, leads officers to react with immediate violence whether the situation warrants it or not.
In his book, “You See a Hero, I See a Human Being,” Detroit police officer-turned-civil rights lawyer David Robinson argues that officers often create life-threatening situations because they react out of a sense of urgency instead of calmly evaluating circumstances before reacting.
Robinson pointed to the 2014 fatal shooting of Tamir Rice in Cleveland.
Cleveland Police officer Timothy Loehmann shot the 12-year-old Black boy seconds after police arrived. Officers said Rice reached for his waistband. A prosecutor later cleared Loehmann of criminal charges, saying he had reason to fear for his life “given the high-stress circumstances and his police training.”
Had the officers asked the dispatcher for more information, Robinson said, they might have learned that Rice was playing in a park with what was likely a toy gun. They also could have stayed inside their patrol car and used a megaphone to talk to Rice and determine what he was doing.
“They put themselves in the dangerous situation, so they shouldn’t be able to avail themselves of that so-called justification,” Robinson said. “You see this pattern over and over again in these incidents. It almost seems like the cops get excited to catch the bad guy, and thinking and discretion sort of goes out the window.”
After the Aurora, Colorado, incident where officers forced Brittney Gilliam and four girls ages 6-17 to the ground before handcuffing Gilliam the two older girls, interim police chief Vanessa Wilson said that the officers did follow protocol. In cases of stolen vehicles, Wilson said, standard tactics include drawing weapons and requiring all occupants exit the vehicle.
But she acknowledged the need for officers “to have discretion and to deviate from this process when different scenarios present themselves.”
Gilliam was incensed in particular about how the police treated the children.
“There’s no excuse why you didn’t handle it a different type of way,” Gilliam told KUSA. “You could have even told them, ‘Step off to the side, let me ask your mom or your auntie a few questions, so we can get this cleared up.’ There was different ways to handle it.”
In a cell phone camera video of the incident, a passerby recorded one of the girls crying and asking for her mother while another girl wailed.
Police said Gilliam’s license plate matched that of a stolen vehicle. But the missing vehicle was a motorcycle, not a car, and the license number was issued in a different state.
Aurora Police declined to comment on the case to USA TODAY, saying that it is still under investigation. Department officials forwarded a copy of Wilson’s statement from August. In it, she said she had already directed leaders within the agency to “look at new practices and training.”
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo took more drastic measures earlier this month, when he decided to fire four officers who in April shot a suicidal man 21 times. Nicholas Chavez, 27, was on his knees, bleeding from previous wounds when he grabbed an officer’s stun gun that had been deployed and couldn’t be used again.
Police union leaders in Houston insisted that, based on the officers’ training, they had no choice but to shoot. Acevedo disagreed, saying those fears were unrealistic with more than two dozen officers on the scene. He said the officers had little regard for Chavez’s life.
“This is a matter of judgment, and if you’re that fearful, with 28 officers, of a man that’s been wounded already, then I don’t need you as a police officer,” Acevedo said.
Scrambling to Catch Up
Another complicating factor is that, while society’s understanding of mental illness has evolved over the last half-century, law enforcement training hasn’t, said W.D. “Dan” Libby, a retired police chief and sheriff who now testifies as an expert in use-of-force cases.
“For about the past 10 years now, law enforcement has scrambled to change the way they deal with those situations,” Libby said. “Some are improving, but there are others out there still trying to catch up.”
Just like union officials in Houston, Rochester Police Union President Michael Mazzeo said the officers involved in Prude’s death were following their training.
Video footage of the incident shows Prude ranting incoherently and at one point telling officers he had coronavirus. Officers said they put a spit hood over his head to keep him from getting bodily fluids on them. After that, at least three officers pinned him to the ground until he stopped moving or breathing.
Prude was taken to a hospital and died a week later. A Rochester area medical examiner ruled his death a homicide by asphyxiation.
The U.S. Department of Justice and the National Institute of Justice warned as early as 1995 that applying pressure to someone’s back while the person is restrained and lying on the ground could be deadly. The subdued person will find it harder to breathe and will instinctively struggle and move more in an attempt to breathe. Officers in turn tend to interpret that as resistance, and respond by applying more pressure.
In Prude’s case, the result was deadly. But that, Mazzeo says, was not the officers’ fault.
“An officer doesn’t have the ability to go off-script,” Mazzeo, president of the Rochester Police Locust Club Union, told the USA TODAY Network’s Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “They have to follow protocol and do what they are trained to do.”
Police in Rochester have yet to outline what changes, if any, they will make to their training in light of Prude’s death. A spokeswoman for the department did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office exonerated officers in a case that bears resemblance to Prude’s. In 2017, Whittier, California, police killed 26-year-old Jonathan Salcido while trying to restrain him during a schizophrenic episode. They handcuffed him, placed him face-down on the ground and piled on top of him.
“Because the officers used objectively reasonable force to overcome Jonathan’s resistance to their lawful duty of detaining him for his own safety, they did not commit an assault under the color of authority,” the DA’s Office concluded.
Although it may seem counterintuitive that officers can legally kill a man while restraining him for his safety, Alpert said, they are trained to treat threats and physical violence with force of their own.
“So even if they’re going there to try to protect him, and if he starts fighting or he has a knife or he has a gun,” Alpert said, “that becomes a separate event.”
In the Salt Lake City case, police were called to the scene just hours before a requirement took effect mandating the use of de-escalation tactics before deploying deadly force.
The shooting happened after the boy’s mother, Golda Barton, called 911 to get police to help her take her son, Linden, to the hospital. Linden has autism and was acting out.
Barton said her son had threatened someone earlier that day with either a BB or a pellet gun. In the video released Monday, one of the responding officers told Barton as they stood outside her house that they would have to treat the gun — whatever it was — as a real threat.
When police approached the home, Barton’s son, Linden, ran from the back door. The officers chased him through the backyard, over a fence and onto a sidewalk. One of them yelled for the teen to get on the ground before firing multiple shots. The officer then shouted for Linden to show his hands.
“I don’t feel good,” Linden said, as he lay curled on the ground. “Tell my mom I love her.”
Salt Lake City Police did not answer USA TODAY’s question about whether the officer who fired was following department training and policy. But in a statement Monday, the department said all officers in the department receive 40 hours of crisis training.
“That is still part of an open investigation by the protocol team as well as internal affairs and the civilian review board,” the department wrote in a statement.
In light of this shooting, though, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said in an interview with USA TODAY that she’s looking at “a number of ways that our police department can better serve our residents who are on the spectrum or have sensory needs, including expanding our training.”
USA Today reporter N’dea Yancey-Bragg and Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reporter Gary Craig contributed to this story.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Police in use-of-force cases cite training as defense; it’s outdated
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These 2 Penny Stocks Could Rally All the Way to $11, Says Cantor
Is more volatility on tap for stocks? Following a three-week losing streak, the longest in about a year, all eyes are on the market. The three major U.S. stock indexes have struggled for the last few weeks as the titans of tech, which have fueled the charge forward from COVID-induced lows, came under pressure due to overheated valuations, with market watchers waiting to see how renewed lockdown fears will come into play.So, what’s the bottom line for investors? Even though uncertainty remains as Wall Street gears up for the fourth quarter, the pros are pounding the table on a select few names, noting that these tickers boast strong long-term growth narratives.Bearing this in mind, our focus shifted to two penny stocks backed by investment firm Cantor. Major gains could be in store, as the firm’s analysts believe these tickers trading for less than $5 per share could climb all the way to $11.These plays are known for being risky, so we turned to TipRanks’ database. Using the platform, we got the full scoop, to find out why both are so compelling even with the risk involved.Rockwell Medical (RMTI)With the goal of transforming iron deficiency and anemia management in a wide variety of therapeutic areas, Rockwell Medical works to improve the lives of patients all over the world. Given the strength of its technology and its $1.22 share price, Cantor thinks that now is the time to snap up shares.Firm analyst Brandon Folkes notes that RMTI “has begun to build on its presence in the dialysis market” with the recent launch of dialysate Triferic, which is the first and only FDA-approved treatment for the replacement of iron to maintain hemoglobin in adult patients with hemodialysis-dependent chronic kidney disease. This formulation is administered through the dialysate (mixed with liquid bicarbonate).On top of this, an IV formulation of Triferic (Triferic Avnu) will enter clinical evaluation in Q3 2020, with Folkes expecting the commercial release to come in the following quarter. Folkes said, “The company continues to believe in the future of Triferic, dialysate and IV formulations, and is executing on its commercial strategy, which takes time to get adoption.” Speaking to this commercial strategy, RMTI is offering three-month evaluation periods for Triferic and has converted 75% of clinics who completed the evaluation period. RMTI is also positioning Triferic at a price that results in a cost neutral position for the clinics, while receiving the clinical benefits from Triferic.Additionally, the company is set to hold a virtual investor meeting this month to discuss the opportunity for two new indications, total parental nutrition (TPN) and hospitalized acute decompensated congestive heart failure (CHF).“…we believe this incremental information is a meaningful positive, as while RMTI had previously noted its indication in exploring additional indications, investors will now have a concrete map of the development work the company will employ to fully maximize the platform within a product potential of the Triferic platform,” Folkes stated.If that wasn’t enough, on September 9, RMTI announced that it has entered into an exclusive license agreement with Jeil Pharmaceutical for the rights to commercialize Triferic in South Korea. As per the terms of the agreement, RMTI will receive an upfront fee and is eligible for milestone payments and royalties on net sales.All of the above prompted Folkes to comment, “We believe Triferic is an innovative product that will drive significant value for RMTI shareholders. We expect product approvals and upward earnings revisions in our DCF model to drive RMTI’s stock higher.”To this end, Folkes rates RMTI an Overweight (i.e. Buy) along with an $11 price target. Should the target be met, a twelve-month gain in the shape of a whopping 801% could be in store. (To watch Folkes’ track record, click here)Turning now to the rest of the Street, 2 Buys and no Holds or Sells have been published in the last three months. Therefore, RMTI has a Moderate Buy consensus rating. Based on the $10 average price target, shares could soar 719% in the next year. (See RMTI stock analysis on TipRanks)Taiwan Liposome Company (TLC)Using its LipAD lipid-assembled delivery system to enable sustained release and targeted deliveries that reduce toxicity and improve efficacy, Taiwan Liposome Company develops cutting-edge nanomedicines. Currently going for $4.38 apiece, Cantor views TLC as an under-the-radar story and believes its share price reflects an attractive entry point.Writing for the firm, analyst Kristen Kluska told clients, “TLC is underappreciated considering the management has an extensive track record in liposomal products (including two acquisitions).” She cites the company’s two late-stage development programs, TLC599 (its BioSeizer formulation of dexamethasone sodium phosphate (DSP) designed to provide relief for knee osteoarthritis (OA) pain) and TLC590 (its therapy for post-surgical pain), that “could present with advantages over current standard of care extended release products, in large markets.”According to Kluska, the company remains on track to complete enrollment for the Phase 3 study of TLC599 by YE20. Further, TLC believes this program is superior to the competition as it’s possible to receive one injection every six months and show that repeated dosing is both safe and effective.Kluska added, “Further, TLC599 consists of just one vial, which could allow for a quick preparation, whereas Zilretta has two vials, thus a potentially longer preparation time. The company also has flexibility with the needle size that could be used for this product, and believes there could be a potential utilization in the joints, hip, shoulder, etc., which the company could consider evaluating in the future.” To this end, should the results be positive, the company could submit an NDA during 1H22.When it comes to TLC590, TLC already reported topline results from the Phase 2 post-surgical pain following bunionectomy study earlier this summer, arguing the candidate has a faster onset and a longer duration than other therapies. Now, management needs to meet with the FDA to discuss pivotal trial designs. “As a reminder, TLC is evaluating a different API (ropivacaine) vs. competitors, which could potentially show a stronger safety profile. The company also believes this product could have lower COGS, which could allow for attracting pricing,” Kluska pointed out.If that wasn’t enough, TLC recently revealed it is evaluating a NanoX sustained release of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) inhalation for prophylaxis and treatment of COVID-19. It already submitted an IND, and could be ready to initiate a Phase 1 study after approval, with data potentially coming by early 2021. It should be noted that Taiwan is the second largest API producer for HCQ in the world, so the company has clear access, in Kluska’s opinion.It should come as no surprise, then, that Kluska stays with the bulls. The analyst rates TLC an Overweight (i.e. Buy) along with an $11 price target. Should her thesis play out, a potential twelve-month gain of 154% could be in the cards. (To watch Kluska’s track record, click here)What does the rest of the Street have to say? With 2 Buys and zero Holds or Sells, the word on the Street is that TLC is a Moderate Buy. In addition, the $11 average price target matches Kluska’s. (See TLC stock analysis on TipRanks)To find good ideas for penny stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights.Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.
EasySend raises $16 million to automate repetitive business processes
EasySend, a no-code automation platform provider focused on the financial industry, today announced it has raised $16 million. CEO Tal Daskal says the funds will enable the company to double its current staff, optimize product development, and expand its customer base.
Regulated industries like insurance and banking rely heavily on forms for processes such as claims, policy issuance, and customer onboarding. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this can lead to inefficiencies and data-entry errors. Employees spend 15% to 35% of their time searching for documents manually, according to an IDC study. And even if only 1% of entries are erroneous, if a document contains just 200 fields, manual entry could result in errors for almost every field.
EasyCode’s platform features a drag-and-drop editor with templates covering insurance, banking, and financial service use cases. It enables the building and deployment of digital customer journeys with responsive web designs, apps, widgets, and custom themes. Journeys are accessible through a range of channels, including websites, SMS, apps, remote servicing, call centers, and chatbots — without additional coding. And they integrate with backend systems like customer relationship management solutions, insurance and banking apps, and more via APIs and connectors.
For paper form conversion, EasyCode’s Kadabra AI platform automatically recognizes PDF structures and fields (e.g., titles, sections, texts, fields, multi choices) and generates a journey in about 10 minutes. Roles, rules, conditions, and permissions management ensure only authorized employees gain access to these converted documents.
EasySend offers a robust esignature solution that automates the bulk of the signature collection work. After uploading a PDF, users specify signers, assign roles and access rules, and mark up fields customers need to fill in. Users then define permissions and input types and choose whether to request attachments and any supplemental documentation.
EasyCode’s built-in analytics tools let managers create statistical report overviews of things like completion rates. From a dashboard, they can filter views by device, geography, date, journey, and trigger source and analyze data on the form, page, or field level. In addition, they can take advantage of EasySend’s auto-optimization toolkit to fine-tune processes based on observed behavior.
EasyCode is hardly the only company applying automation to historically manual processes. In January, Gabi raised $27 million in funding to expand into enterprise paperwork and document scanning. Earlier this summer, Candis nabbed nearly $14 million to automate accounting workflows with AI that imports files, extracts data, approves invoices, and handles exporting. There’s also Captricity, a startup acquired by SS&C that helped enterprises digitize their paperwork, faxes, scans, mobile phone photos, and handwritten documents.
Daskal, who’s unconcerned about the competition, says EasySend has over 40 customers in the U.S., Israel, and Europe, including large insurers like Petplan and R+V. “Enterprises, especially those in the insurance and financial services industries, have come to realize that the best way to gain a lasting advantage over their competitors — during COVID-19 and routine times — is to optimize their customer experience solutions,” he told VentureBeat via email. “Therefore, enterprises turn to EasySend when they’re ready to make even their most complex workflows simple and easy for both their employees and their customers.”
Hanaco led the $16 million funding round, with participation from Intel Capital. The investment includes a previously undisclosed $5 million seed round from existing investors Vertex Ventures and Menora Insurance, and follows the completion of an $11 million series A round. EasyCode plans to use it in part to expand its workforce from 50 employees to over 100 by 2021.
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