George Shultz, American statesman who sought Mideast peace and end to nuclear arms race, dies at 100

Former Secretary of State George P. Shultz, a titan of American academia, business and diplomacy who spent most of the 1980s trying to improve Cold War relations with the Soviet Union and forging a course for peace in the Middle East, has died. He was 100.

Shultz died Saturday at his home on the campus of Stanford University, where he was a distinguished fellow at the Hoover Institution, a think tank, and professor emeritus at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

The Hoover Institution announced Shultz’s death on Sunday. A cause of death was not provided.

A lifelong Republican, Shultz held three major Cabinet positions in GOP administrations during a lengthy career of public service.

He was labor secretary, treasury secretary and director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Richard M. Nixon before spending more than six years as President Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state.

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Calif. stores closing after city orders pay hike

Kroger Co. will close two Southern California supermarkets in response to a local ordinance requiring extra pay for certain grocery employees working during the pandemic.

The decision announced by the company Monday follows a unanimous vote last month by the Long Beach City Council mandating a 120-day increase of $4 an hour for employees of supermarkets with at least 300 employees nationwide and more than 15 in Long Beach. Kroger said it will close a Ralphs market and a Food 4 Less on April 17, the Press-Telegram reported.

“As a result of the City of Long Beach’s decision to pass an ordinance mandating Extra Pay for grocery workers, we have made the difficult decision to permanently close long-struggling store locations in Long Beach,” the company said in a statement. The statement added: “This misguided action by the Long Beach City Council oversteps the traditional bargaining process and applies to some, but not all, grocery workers in the city.”

 A city statement characterized Kroger’s decision as “unfortunate for workers, shoppers and the company.”

A similar hazard pay wage increase has been approved by the city of Montebello and is being considered in Los Angeles and Pomona.

A lawsuit filed by the California Grocers Association claims that the Long Beach ordinance interferes with the collective bargaining process between grocery stores and unions representing workers.

An association official said Monday that an increase of $4 an hour represents about a 28% increase in labor costs.

“There’s no way grocers can absorb that big of a cost increase without an offset somewhere else, considering grocers operate with razor-thin margins and many stores already operate in the red,” association CEO Ron Fong said in a statement.

The ordinance was approved in a Jan. 19 meeting in which council members and Mayor Robert Garcia said many groceries gave employees hazard pay in the early stages of the pandemic but phased it out.

Simple Minds not just “Alive and Kicking”

“Let the Day Begin” by Michael Been, The Call

“Let the Day Begin” is a cover of the 1989 song by The Call. An earlier Simple Minds recording was released in May 2009 on the Graffiti Soul bonus (cover) album Searching For The Lost Boys. This new recording features a different arrangement released on the 2014 album Big Hits

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Minimum Wage in America: How Many People are Earning $7.25 an Hour?

President Biden Proposed raising the Federal Minimum Wage to $15.00/hour as part of his $1.9 billion stimulus plan.

Americans have debated where to set the federal minimum wage for decades. President Joe Biden’s proposed stimulus plan aims to increase the federal minimum to $15 an hour, more than doubling the current wage of $7.25. Currently, wages vary by state, with some cities mandating more than double the federal minimum and other states with requirements below $7.25. Employees covered by both state and federal minimum wage laws are entitled to the higher of the two minimums.

How many people earn the federal minimum wage?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 1.6 million workers, or 1.9% of all hourly paid, non-self-employed workers, earned wages at or below the federal minimum wage in 2019. That year, 82.3 million people were paid hourly rates, making up 58.1% of all wage and salary workers in the United States.

Fewer Americans today make the federal minimum wage or less.
In 1980, when the federal minimum wage was $3.10 ($9.86 in 2019 dollars), 13% of hourly workers earned the federal minimum wage or less. Today, only 1.9% of hourly workers do. The number of federal minimum wage workers has decreased from 7.7 million in 1980 to 1.6 million in 2019. This is partly due to states establishing higher minimum wages than the federal level.

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$15 minimum wage an anchor on struggling businesses

President Joe Biden has proposed a nationwide $15 minimum wage as part of his so-called “American Rescue Plan.” Talk about bad timing: Raising labor prices on businesses that are struggling to stay afloat is like throwing them a load of bricks instead of a life preserver.

State and local governments raising their minimum wages is one thing, but to more than double the federal minimum, from $7.25 to $15 per hour?

Nearly 1 in every 5 restaurants permanently closed their doors in 2020 as 30 large retail and restaurant companies filed for bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, employment in food services (restaurants and bars) fell 19% in 2020 as retail clothing jobs dropped 24% and accommodations (hotels) jobs plummeted 32%.

Although very few people — only about 1% of all workers and 0.1% of single parents — make the $7.25 minimum wage, a good portion of restaurant, retail and hotel jobs pay less than $15 per hour.

No one would suggest raising the rent on households who are months behind on their payments, so how could raising labor prices help businesses?

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Walt’s announcement drew big crowd, but details were thin

A clipping from the Nov. 16, 1965 edition of the Orlando Sentinel includes a headline
that reads: “Walt Disney to Build World’s Best Tourist Attraction in Mid-Florida.”

Counting down to the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World’s opening in October 1971,
the Orlando Sentinel begins a weekly feature looking at the construction and impact of the theme park on our area. See more Disney at 50 coverage at OrlandoSentinel.com/DailyDisney.

Walt Disney’s presence in Florida went from rumored to reported to reality as he came to downtown Orlando’s Cherry Plaza Hotel on Nov. 15, 1965 to announce his plans for 27,000 acres in Orange and Osceola counties. A clipping from the Nov. 16, 1965 edition of the Orlando Sentinel includes a headline that reads: “Walt Disney to Build World’s Best Tourist Attraction in Mid-Florida.”

There was an invitation-only presentation to government and business leaders followed
by a news conference described by Gov. Haydon Burns as the largest in Florida history.
An estimated 400 people crowded into the Egyptian Ballroom.

In this week’s Disney at 50, the Sentinel’s look at Walt Disney World of yesterday and
today, we present photos from that occasion.

The Cherry Plaza building stands today on East Central Boulevard. It’s now Post Parkside Orlando apartments and home to several businesses, including World of Beer, which faces Lake Eola. Back in ‘65, it housed offices for Delta Air Lines, Florida Symphony and an art gallery. Many civic organizations such as Elks, Parliamentarians and the German American Ladies met there regularly.

President Lyndon Johnson had stayed there overnight during his 1964 campaign.

In 1965, after Walt Disney spoke and answered questions, there still was confusion about just what was coming to Central Florida. Disney dodged specifics, saying planning was still in the works. It would be the same as Disneyland but entirely different, he said, and it would definitely not be called Disneyland.

He was crafty in other ways. Reporters trying to catch him checking into Cherry Plaza were disappointed. It was later revealed that he stayed at the Robert Meyer Motor Inn under an assumed name, perhaps his pilot’s name. That hotel, on the corner of Washington Street and Rosalind Avenue, was on the opposite side of the lake from Cherry Hill. Robert Meyer eventually was known as the Harley Hotel, which is now condos called Metropolitan at Lake Eola.

If you live there now, you can say Walt Disney slept there then.

Vitamin D eyed as possible new tool in fight against coronavirus

Boston researchers are studying another potential weapon in the coronavirus fight.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital will look at whether vitamin D can lessen the severity of COVID-19 symptoms.

Researchers are also studying whether vitamin D supplements reduce the chance of becoming infected if you have been exposed to someone in your household who tested positive for COVID-19.

Vitamin D is already known as an immune system booster.

The study ( https://www.vividtrial.org/) will focus on patients age 30 or older who have been recently diagnosed with the virus within the previous five days.

Participants will be asked to take the vitamin D or placebo study capsules every day for 28 days, provide at-home blood samples by fingerprick and complete questionnaires.

Studies have suggested that vitamin D may reduce the risk of respiratory tract infections.

Researchers said, “the potential role of vitamin D to protect against infection by the novel coronavirus that leads to COVID-19 is promising but unknown.”

2020 is finally over. Here are 10 Orlando moments to remember from the year that wasn’t

About that eternal lockdown: The principle of “Hanlon’s Razor” holds that we shouldn’t credit malice for actions that can be explained by stupidity, but in Florida, in 2020, sometimes it was tough to tell the difference. As other countries and even states worked together to flatten their disease curve and return to something approaching normality, those of us in Orlando who scrupulously observed COVID protocols watched helplessly as those who refused to danced, drank and wedding-partied Florida into a viral cesspit. Malice, stupidity, or a little bit of both? We’ll never know, but in the meantime, our three months of quarantine is stretching out into 13 with no assured end in sight.

But even though it felt like living the movie Groundhog Day, things happened that deserve notice, both commendable and regrettable.

Rep. Val Demings is a manager of the Trump impeachment:

We kicked off 2020 with the hometown-pride-inducing sight of U.S. Rep. Val Demings serving as one of seven managers to physically “transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate.” As an impeachment manager, Demings walked to the Senate chamber to hand over the printed articles and after reading the charges aloud, returned to the House to give a verbal report. “I’ve enforced the laws and now I write the laws,” Demings, who was once Orlando Police Chief, said during the debate before the House impeachment vote. “But the laws mean nothing if the accused can destroy evidence, stop witnesses from testifying and blatantly refuse to cooperate.”

COVID craters the local tourism industry:

Before 2020, conventional wisdom was that, no matter what, theme parks don’t close; 9/11 only interrupted Disney operations for less than a full day, for god’s sake. But the coronavirus pandemic put paid to that notion, shutting down the tourist industry that Orlando’s economy hinges on in March. Theme parks and attractions closed and furloughed scores of workers. Then hotels, restaurants, bars, the convention center, even the airport all followed suit to varying degrees. The ripple effects were heartbreaking, like watching a car wreck in slow motion. In June, Universal and SeaWorld reopened, followed by Disney World in July. But with limited capacity and large events like Halloween Horror Nights off the table, profits nose-dived enough to cause thousands more layoffs. It will be a long road back to where we were at the start of 2020, and things will get worse with Disney and Universal, yes, set to lay off still more employees by the time you read this issue.

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