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Russia’s navy kicks off large-scale drills in Pacific ocean

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Russia's navy kicks off large-scale drills in Pacific ocean

Large-scale drills of Russia’s Pacific Fleet began in the central part of the Pacific Ocean, the Russian Ministry of Defense reported on Thursday, June 10.

According to the ministry, 20 warships, submarines and support vessels are taking part in the exercises. In particular the missile cruiser “Varyag”, the large anti-submarine ship “Admiral Panteleev”, the frigate “Marshal Shaposhnikov” as well as other military and support vessels.

In addition, about 20 aircraft are involved in the exercise, including Tu-142mz long-range anti-submarine aircraft and MiG-31BM high-altitude fighter-interceptors.

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$500 payments tested in upstate NY

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$500 payments tested in upstate NY

Annette Steele isn’t destitute or unemployed. But for a year she’ll be receiving $500 per month in no-strings-attached payments as part of an experimental universal basic income program in upstate New York.

Places from Compton, California, to Richmond, Virginia, are trying out guaranteed income programs, which gained more attention after the pandemic idled millions of workers.

Steele, a special education school aide, is getting her payments through a program in Ulster County, which covers parts of the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River Valley.

During the pilot program, funded by private donations, 100 county residents making less than $46,900 annually will get $500 a month for a year. The income threshold was based on 80 percent of the county’s average median income, meaning it includes both the poor and a slice of the middle class — people who face financial stress but might not ordinarily qualify for government aid based on income.

For researchers, the pilot could give them a fuller picture of what happens when a range of people are sent payments that guarantee a basic living.

For Steele, 57, it’s a welcome financial boost that helped her pay for car insurance and groceries.

“It lessens my bills,” said Steele, who lives in the village of Ellenville with her retired husband. “People think because you’ve been working so many years, that you make this tremendous amount of money. But no, actually.”

Less than 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of New York City, Ulster County is a popular destination for weekenders headed to Woodstock or the Catskill Mountains. Its big city, Kingston, is small, with 23,000 people.

Basic income programs elsewhere tend to focus on cities. In contrast, this upstate program stretches out over a mix of places: a city, small towns and remote areas many miles from bus lines and supermarkets.

“Showing that this approach will work not just in urban areas, but for rural parts of the country — which we know is one of our big national problems — I think there’s great opportunity there,” said Ulster County Executive Patrick Ryan.

Ryan saw cash payments as a way to help local families struggling to get ahead, or even get by, as the pandemic ebbs. Many people in the county were already stretched thin by housing costs before the pandemic, when a large influx of New York City residents led to skyrocketing real estate prices, he said.

The first payments were made in mid-May. Recipients of the money can spend it as they wish, but will be asked to participate in periodic surveys about their physical health, mental health and employment status.

The Center for Guaranteed Income Research at the University of Pennsylvania, which the school formed with the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, is evaluating the pilot program.

Recipient Eric Luna, a 26-year-old electrical lab technician, said the money will help pay the bills at the home he recently helped his parents buy in Wallkill. But he also hopes to set some aside, possibly for a master’s degree.

“I’m also learning how to save money as well,” he said. “So this will be a learning experience.”

There were more than 4,200 applicants for the program in a county of 178,000 people. Center for Guaranteed Income Research co-founder Stacia West, who is evaluating more than 20 such pilot programs, is interested in seeing how spending compares to cities like Stockton, California, where more that a third went for food.

“Knowing what we know about barriers to employment, especially in rural areas, we may see more money going toward transportation than we’ve ever seen before in any other experiment,” said West, also a professor at the University of Tennessee College of Social Work. “But it remains to be seen.”

Proponents of guaranteed incomes say recipients can decide how to spend the money best — be it food, job searches or to replace a refrigerator. The money can complement the existing social safety net, they say, or can be used as an emergency response when the economy starts tanking.

The end goal for a number of advocates is a universal basic income, or UBI, which would distribute cash payment programs for all adults.

The UBI idea helped fuel a stronger-than-expected Democratic presidential primary run last year by Andrew Yang, who proposed $1,000 a month for every American adult.

Yang, who has a second home in Ulster County, is now running for New York City mayor with a basic income proposal to help lower-income residents.

Officials say Yang hasn’t been involved in Ulster’s program, but that the nonprofit he founded, Humanity Forward, was helpful in sharing experiences on starting a UBI pilot.

Critics of cash transfer programs worry about their effectiveness and cost compared to aid programs that target funds for food, shelter or for help raising children.

Drake University economics professor Heath Henderson is concerned the programs miss needier people less likely to apply, including those without homes.

While there are times people might benefit from a cash infusion, the money is unlikely to address the structural issues holding people back, like inadequate health care and schools, he said.

“If we keep thinking about remedying poverty in terms of just throwing cash at people, you’re not thinking about the structures that kind of reproduce poverty in the first place and you’re not really solving the problem at all,” Henderson said.

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Can someone have a word with my co-worker about her plunging necklines?

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Can someone have a word with my co-worker about her plunging necklines?

My co-worker has a Jayne Mansfield figure and continually wears plunging necklines, resulting in stares from staff. Can human resources legally advise her to dress more appropriately?

The answer is generally yes. HR can legally have a conversation with an employee about their manner of dress, provided someone isn’t being singled out because of gender, race or religious observance. However, one needs to tread very carefully because unless there is a specific dress code, this conversation is fraught with negative outcomes. Since this is an observation of a coworker and you aren’t this person’s boss, do you really want to engage in this matter or refer it to HR? Do you have the kind of relationship where you can speak to them privately about how their manner of dress is impacting other colleagues? You’d better be damn close colleagues in order to have that conversation, though, otherwise, this is best left to the boss and HR.

I work on a contract basis and there are times when I’m working overtime, but the company will not approve my time sheet past 40 hours. My agency said I should put in for the OT, but I don’t want to rock the boat. Is this legal? Full disclosure: The department I work in is HR so it would be ironic if they are bending the rules.

Well, the fact that you work in the HR department gives me some confidence that they are following the rules, although it’s not like HR hasn’t failed to protect employee rights now and then. A person’s eligibility for OT depends on the work they are doing, whether they are paid a flat fee, or if they are OT eligible, meaning the company approves the extra hours before they are worked. If you are eligible then by law they have to pay you for those hours. You can and should ask for clarification of your situation. If you are eligible and they won’t authorize the extra pay then you shouldn’t work the extra hours. Keep a detailed log of your hours and who was aware that you worked them. If this is a temporary job, you can also consider raising the issue at the end of the assignment. If they don’t comply with back pay, you will have the facts and law on your side.

Gregory Giangrande has over 25 years of experience as a chief human resources executive and is dedicated to helping New Yorkers get back to work. E-mail your questions to [email protected] Follow Greg on Twitter: @greggiangrande and at GoToGreg.com

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Woolly mammoth tusk found during roadwork in Oregon

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Woolly mammoth tusk found during roadwork in Oregon

It was a mammoth discovery!

Crews rerouting a gas line in the city of Corvallis, Ore., uncovered the 12,000-year-old tusk of a woolly mammoth beneath the roadway.

“Whenever doing this type of work, our crews are very careful to keep any eye out for any type of materials they may find while working that could be fragile or historic,” a spokeswoman for NW Natural, the gas company doing the work, told the Corvallis Gazette-Times. “As is our protocol, we stopped work immediately.”

The excavation work was being done for the city government, part of a project on water lines and storm drains in the area. The company contacted Corvallis officials, who brought in Oregon State University’s Loren Davis, an anthropology professor who researches archaeological sites from western North America that date from the Pleistocene era, more than 12,000 years ago.

Davis said that the mammoth, which co-existed with early humans, probably was buried in the great Missoula floods of the Pleistocene era. The tusk is about 6 feet below ground level, and extends into the construction trench wall, meaning more of the animal’s body might be hidden underground.

The exact reason it ended up there is “a bit of a mystery,” Davis said. “The world was changing structure to a post-glacial one. People also were present. There might have been environmental factors as well as hunting pressure. It could be lots of things.”

Early humans not only hunted mammoths for food, but used their bones and tusks to make tools, dwellings and art.

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