POSSIBLE TOPICS: VOTETEXAS.GOV—Voter Information; The Community Climate Summit will be a day-long gathering; Public comment period to close Sept. 15 on FM 529 widening project; Harris County ESD 9 approves Tele911 implementation in Cy-Fair; The ‘sleeper-hit’ beyond $10K: Student loan borrowers say new income-driven repayment plan could be ‘life-changing’; Inside the rise of ‘stealerships’ and the shady economics of car buying; Erdogan accuses Greece of ‘occupying’ demilitarised islands; More.
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- ANNOUNCEMENT: The Community Climate Summit will be a day-long gathering of climate activists, community leaders, and frontline community members. Sep 10 at the Rice University Glasscock School of Continuing Studies
- The hope for this event is to support a coming together of frontline community members, community leaders, organizers, activists, and environmental advocacy professionals; to share resources, learn about neighborhood-specific issues, identify sustainability strategies, collaborate to support each other’s existing initiatives, and create a shared vision and action plans toward both short- and long-term goals to protect the health of Houston communities. More details to come at the linked event site.
- Public comment period to close Sept. 15 on FM 529 widening project; By Hunter Marrow | COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM | 9:30 AM Sep 5, 2022 CDT
- The Texas Department of Transportation will soon close the public comment period on a road project seeking to widen sections of FM 529.
- [FM 529 is a two-lane undivided roadway, one lane in each direction, with four-foot outside shoulders and open ditches.—From TxDOT]
- The agency will hold the public comment period from Aug. 30-Sept. 15, allowing the public to review and provide comments on the proposed project, which is designed to improve mobility and safety along a 12-mile stretch on FM 529 from the Grand Parkway to FM 362 …
- [According to TxDOT:
- The proposed improvements include the following:
- Widen the existing FM 529 from a two-lane roadway to a six-lane roadway with an 18-foot raised median between SH 99 and Katy Hockley Cut Off Roa [sic]
- Widen the existing FM 529 from a two-lane roadway to a four-lane roadway with an 18-foot raised median between Katy Hockley Cut Off Rod [sic] to FM 362
- Add 12-foot outside shoulders
- Add sidewalks to both sides of the roadway from SH 99 to FM 362
- Provide turn lanes at intersections and median openings at specified locations
- The proposed right of way would be approximately 180 feet.]
- Through Sept. 15, TxDOT is encouraging residents to provide comments via phone, at 832-409-2567, email at email@example.com or by mail at the TxDOT Houston District address at P.O. Box 1386.
- ANDREW: I generally like any project that builds more sidewalks, though I think any traffic improvements are likely to be only temporary. The best way to lighten traffic is to give people viable alternatives to driving, namely public transport.
- Harris County ESD 9 approves Tele911 implementation in Cy-Fair; By Mikah Boyd | COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM | 10:46 AM Aug 31, 2022 CDT, Updated 10:46 AM Aug 31, 2022 CDT
- Harris County Emergency Services District No. 9 commissioners approved moving forward with the implementation of Tele911, an emergency medical services system to reduce the number of ambulance trips to emergency rooms, at their Aug. 25 meeting.
- According to the presentation, Tele911 has a no-cost implementation system that will add to the district’s current emergency response system and help patients determine if an ambulance ride to an emergency room is necessary. Those who do require more intensive care but are resistant to ride to the emergency room can also be convinced to get potentially life-saving care through consultation with local doctors.
- “They have created an established Texas medical group, which is Texas board-certified physicians who are actively working in emergency health care in ERs around Texas,” Deputy Chief Chris Nations said. “When we reach out for assistance through Tele911, that is who we speak to. We don’t speak to a doctor in California; we don’t speak to doctors in Florida; we speak to Texas certified physicians.”
- This is done through contact with local doctors who will be contacted during an EMS response for a video meeting with the patient with the paramedics present. After the paramedics complete their assessment of the patient, the doctor will be called to provide a second opinion and inform patients whether medical intervention is necessary or if their ailment can be treated with prescriptions or the next day at an urgent care center.
- The goal of this program is to assist those who need it most and to free up ambulances that would otherwise transport patients who are less likely to be admitted to the hospital, which is costly to both the patient and the department. Officials said Tele911 also aims to get patients who refuse care in serious situations to get the care they need. Doctors on call can help convince patients with warning signs of serious ailments to take their health and treatment seriously. …
- [Deputy Chief Chris Nations said,] “There is a social work component where a social worker will reach out. … So they are touched three times by the health care continuance, our initial visit, the 24-hour post-call, then the social worker call back to find out if there are any social needs. Do they need access to home health care, do they need help enrolling in Medicaid, do they need to find prescription drug plans that work for them?” …
- MIKE: This story interested me, so I dug a little deeper …
- PRESS RELEASE (May 10, 2022): Montgomery County [TX] Hospital District EMS Transforms 911 Emergency Care with the ET3 Model
- Montgomery County Hospital District EMS has been chosen to participate in a trial federal government program meant to reduce unnecessary trips to the hospital for residents who call 911 with non-emergent medical issues. Patients who call 911 will be evaluated by a certified paramedic to determine if they are eligible to – instead of being transported to the hospital – participate in a live telehealth visit with an ER physician. In consultation with the paramedic team, the choice of going to the hospital or participating in a telehealth visit is the patient’s to make. You may be surprised to learn MCHD responds to a high percentage of low acuity calls that would qualify for a telehealth visit, like toothaches, sore throats, or sprained ankles, for instance. Having the option for a telehealth visit allows the patient to speak with an emergency physician while in their home to develop a treatment plan that meets their needs.
- To accomplish this goal, MCHD EMS, which is responsible for all medical 911 responses in Montgomery County, has partnered with Tele911, Inc. to integrate telemedicine and patient navigation into the EMS system. This collaboration allows MCHD to provide even better, patient-centered care. This telehealth service is not available for patients who are experiencing a life-threatening or time-sensitive emergency.
- After a nationwide search, MCHD was one of only 205 EMS agencies across the U.S. selected to participate in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services so-called ET3 (Emergency Triage, Treat, and Transport (ET3) program. The provision of emergency medicine telehealth services and social worker follow-ups helps MCHD provide an even higher level of patient care, address social determinants of health, and will, potentially, reduce response times to true emergencies. …
- MIKE: After some further research, I learned that Tele911 is based in Pasadena, California. The Texas Emergency Medical Group PLLC is also incorporated in California. They may well use Texas-certified doctors in Texas, but I wasn’t able to find a link that definitively lists affiliated doctors, but the list I found of possibly-affiliated doctors is extensive. I’m trying to get clarification on that and other questions.
- – How old is Tele911?
- – How long has Tele911 been associated with Medicare/Medicaid?
- – Does Tele911 work seamlessly through native 911 networks?
- – In situations that involve what might be a mental health crisis that often unhappily involves police, would Tele911 be in any position to fill any of that gap in place of, or interacting with, police?
- – Are there pending rollouts in other parts of Harris and adjacent Texas counties?
- – How many EMT districts are in your network currently?
- – How many doctors in your network are physically in Texas?
- ANDREW: Why push local doctors? Almost like trying to distract from the out-of-state company. Regardless, I like the resource conservation element, just wish the cost savings didn’t have to be a factor.
- REFERENCE: Tele911 — MAIN WEB SITE
- REFERENCE: TELE911 TEXAS EMERGENCY MEDICAL GROUP PLLC— NPIdb.org
- PRESS RELEASE/REFERENCE (May 10, 2022): Montgomery County [TX] Hospital District EMS Transforms 911 Emergency Care with the ET3 Model (FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE). For more information, please contact: Misti Willingham, Public Information Officer.
- The ‘sleeper-hit’ beyond $10K: Student loan borrowers say new income-driven repayment plan could be ‘life-changing’; Jennifer Liu (@jljenniferliu) | CNBC.COM | Published Sun, Sep 4 202210:30 AM EDT
- The day the Biden administration unveiled its highly anticipated student loan forgiveness plan was a “celebratory day” for Justin Short.
- Short, 34, graduated from the University of Missouri in 2012 with a degree in hospitality management, $47,000 in federal student loans and $5,800 in private student loans. Like many borrowers, his college debt has plagued his personal and financial decisions for years.
- So while he found relief in many of the announcements coming from the White House on Aug. 24 — $10,000 in debt forgiveness, another payment pause extension through the end of the year — Short was most interested in the announcement of proposed changes to income-driven repayment plans.
- The Department of Education’s new plan would cap monthly payments on undergraduate debt to 5% of discretionary income, down from the usual 10% to 15% on existing plans.
- The proposal also raises the amount of money considered non-discretionary income and shielded from being used to calculate student loan payments.
- It would cover any accrued unpaid interest so that no borrower’s balance would grow if they made a qualifying payment.
- And it would forgive loan balances after 10 years of payments, instead of the usual 20, for those with original loan balances of $12,000 or less
- This “sleeper” detail of the loan forgiveness plan could be “a game-changer” for millions of borrowers with remaining balances, says Julie Peller, executive director at Higher Learning Advocates, a bipartisan higher education nonprofit. …
- Under the newly proposed income-driven plan, Short says the 5% income cap will be “life-changing,” and notes that he’ll benefit from the increased threshold for non-discretionary income.
- For existing plans, the threshold that’s shielded from being used for loan repayments is 150% of the poverty level, or $20,385 for a single person in 2022. Under the new plan, the Department of Education would raise the amount of money borrowers can keep to 225% of the poverty level, or $30,577 per year for a single person.
- This also ensures any borrowers making the equivalent of a $15 hourly minimum wage or less won’t have to make any payments on their loans under the plan. …
- Another major impact of the proposed payment plan is that borrowers will no longer accrue interest on their loan as long as they make their qualified monthly payment, which could be $0 for those with low income.
- That’s “a really big deal” for low-income borrowers, Peller says: Currently, if a borrower’s income is low enough, their payment may not cover the monthly interest on their loans. If that’s the case, then the remaining unpaid interest gets capitalized and added to the loan principle. This “essentially balloons the payments and puts people in a cycle of never being able to make forward progress on their student loans,” Peller says. …
- Getting rid of accruing unpaid interest means that “unlike other existing income-driven repayment plans, no borrower’s loan balance will grow as long as they make their monthly payments,” the White House said. …
- Under the new proposal, payments for undergraduate loans will be capped at 5% of discretionary income, graduate loans will be capped at 10%, and borrowers with a mix of both will pay a weighted average rate. …
- The draft rule for the income-driven repayment proposal will be published on the Federal Register in the coming days and open to public comment for 30 days afterward. A Department of Education spokesperson said it could not comment on the timing of plan availability, though experts like Peller say it could open up by summer 2023.
- A few big questions remain: Who will be eligible for the program, which types of loans qualify and how will people enroll?
- “In the past, income-driven repayment options are really good, but require a lot of care and attention by the borrower, with requirements to recertify their income every year and make sure they’re getting their information in on time to servicers,” Peller says.
- “It’s going to require a good amount of clear communication to people so they don’t feel they’re expecting something they’re not eligible for, and more importantly, so they don’t miss something they are eligible for,” she adds. …
- ANDREW: Means-testing always keeps help away from people who need it. Even just one person is too many. Better than nothing, but paid education is really an objectionable concept no matter what assistance is offered. Maybe this policy will help build to that.
- Inside the rise of ‘stealerships’ and the shady economics of car buying; by Greg Rosalsky | NPR.ORG | August 30, 2022, 6:30 AM ET
- Cars are, of course, expensive, especially with the supply chain fiasco creating shortages. But it’s more than that. Shopping for cars is not like shopping for most other products. Unlike, say, computers or refrigerators, cars are typically not sold for one standard price. Ten people could go into a dealership and each pay a wildly different amount to buy the same exact vehicle.
- Economists call this sort of pricing strategy “price discrimination.” That’s when, instead of charging everyone the same price, sellers charge people different prices based on their willingness to pay. In simpler terms, it means that the seller milks as much money as they can out of you. Not all dealerships engage in this pricing strategy, but many do it aggressively, often with snake oil-style salesmanship, deceptive marketing tactics, hidden fees, and overpriced add-ons, like floor mats, alarm systems, or anti-rust undercoating. Some consumers call the outfits that employ these tactics “stealerships. The tricky pricing strategy used by dealerships can be maddening for consumers …
- A slew of economic studies has found patterns in who bears the brunt of this pricing strategy. It’s not pretty. For example, a number of studies find that dealerships tend to charge people of color more than white folks. Another study finds that older people tend to be charged higher prices than younger people, and that older women tend to be charged the highest price of all.
- One study found that dealerships tend to treat a buyer’s decision to trade in their used car like a neon sign on their foreheads, flashing, “Charge me more!” That’s because trading in your used car, while easier than selling it directly, also fetches less money. Dealerships apparently see this as an indicator that you’re either unsavvy or willing to burn cash — so they jack up the price of the car they sell to you. The type of car you trade in also offers a wealth of information on how much they can charge.
- In normal times, when supply is ample and dealerships are more worried about getting cars off the lot, it’s common for them to charge less than the Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). But with supply-chain problems creating shortages of new vehicles recently, many dealerships have been charging much more than MSRP. Meanwhile, the dealerships that don’t add markups to MSRP are seeing their inventory depleted quickly, and often have wait times of months or even years for coveted vehicles.
- Michelle Krebs is a longtime automotive researcher who serves as the executive analyst of Cox Automotive, which owns brands like Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader. “This is the first time in my career — and it’s a long career — that I’ve seen most dealerships charging at list price or over,” she says. “And it’s simply because there’s high demand, low inventory, and they can do it.” Krebs says she’s seen some cases where dealerships have charged buyers literally tens of thousands of dollars over MSRP.
- Dealerships are usually independent franchises of their affiliated automaker, which means they are autonomous businesses that can basically do what they want when it comes to setting prices. But many automakers are not happy with their franchises charging crazy high markups. A recent study from the consumer group Growth for Knowledge suggests that excessive price gouging sours consumers on not just a particular dealership, but the car brand as a whole.
- At least some automakers know this. Earlier this year, Hyundai Motor Company sent a letter to its dealerships urging them to end deceptive practices, such as advertising a low price online and then charging a much higher price when customers go into the store. The company complained that sky-high markups were “damaging our brands’ long-term ability to capture new customers and retain loyal ones.”
- Likewise, Ford Motor Company urged its dealers to cut down on markups and threatened to cut back on sending them Ford’s most coveted vehicles if they didn’t. And yet the new Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck and the Ford Bronco are some of the most marked-up vehicles on the market, regularly being priced at much higher levels than what Ford has said they should be sold for. The problem for Ford: dealerships are independent and the Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price is just that, suggested. …
- We asked Michelle Krebs, the longtime automobile industry analyst, if she had any advice for … our … Planet Money newsletter readers — about buying a car in this bonkers, supply-constrained market. “I always say pack your patience and persistence,” Krebs says. “You have to keep looking, keep shopping. You have to be flexible on your choice. You may not get the brand or car style you want. And, importantly, expand your geographic search. Most people don’t want to shop more than 25 miles away, but you may need to go farther than that.”
- ANDREW: Price controls needed. Can be direct or can be indirect via tax penalties on owners/investors of predatory dealerships or perhaps cancelling penalties to manufacturers for breaking franchise contracts with predatory dealerships. Regulation needed– market won’t solve this; market created this.
- Erdogan accuses Greece of ‘occupying’ demilitarised islands; Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen | REUTERS | September 3, 202211:43 AM CDT, Last Updated 11 hours ago
- Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan accused Greece on Saturday of occupying islands in the Aegean Sea that have a demilitarised status, and said Turkey was prepared to “do what is necessary” when the time comes.
- Historic rivals while also being fellow members of NATO, Turkey and Greece have been at odds over issues ranging from overflights and the status of Aegean islands to maritime boundaries and hydrocarbon resources in the Mediterranean, as well as ethnically split Cyprus.
- Ankara has recently accused Athens of arming the demilitarised Aegean islands – something Athens rejects, but Erdogan had not previously accused Greece of occupying them. …
- Greece reacted by saying it will not follow Turkey in its “outrageous daily slide” of statements and threats. … [MIKE: Note that this is not a denial by Greece.]
- Turkey has recently been angered by what it said is harassment of its jets by Greek forces. Ankara has said that S-300 air defence systems used by Greece had locked on to Turkish jets during a routine flight. …
- As Erdogan prepares for what is shaping up to be the biggest electoral challenge of his nearly 20-year rule in 2023, the president has played up achievements in the global stage. He has also stepped up his rhetoric on foreign policy.
- Ankara says the Aegean islands were given to Greece under the 1923 and 1947 treaties on condition that it does not arm them. [Turkish] Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has repeatedly said Turkey would start questioning Greek sovereignty over the islands if Athens persisted in arming them.
- Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has said Turkey’s position of questioning Greece’s sovereignty over the islands is “absurd”. [MIKE: Again, not a denial.]
- MIKE: I decided to drop this story into today’s news and discussion because I think most Americans, including myself, really know too little about the history and complexities of Turkey (now officially “Turkiye” for English-speakers) and its surrounding regions, and the implications of that history for modern geopolitics.
- MIKE: I think for most Americans, their knowledge of Turkey is that until its defeat in WW1, it was the Ottoman Empire; after that, it was reduced to today’s Republic of Turkey/Turkiye; And that it’s a problematic NATO ally.
- MIKE: Second, as an FYI, most of Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire from about 1458 until it won its independence from the Ottomans in 1821.
- MIKE: But the mention in this article of “1923 and 1947 treaties” made me dig a lot deeper to expand my understanding of the modern history of Turkey/Turkiye and how that’s effects how we understand what’s going on in the region today.
- MIKE: It’s very complicated, and both parties seem to be selectively citing parts of various treaties that seem favorable to one party or the other, with insufficient citation of whether one treaty supersedes another in a way that is disadvantageous to its own side.
- MIKE: I’ve included below this article a number of links to various articles relating to the Greco-Turkish disputes. If you have in interest in doing some additional reading, I’ve started doing the basic work for you.
- ANDREW: I know Erdogan as a Republican-style neo-fascist w/sprinkling of military dictator for taste. I don’t trust him. But Greece isn’t denying any of this, and I’ve heard Greek politics took a recent rightward turn as well. Militarism and expansionism are cornerstones of conservatism, so perhaps both sides are fanning the flames here. Concerning.
- REFERENCE: Ottoman Greece, newworldencyclopedia.org
- REFERENCE: Explained: Greek militarisation of Eastern Aegean islands in 5 questions | TRTWORLD.COM [Turkey] | 22 Jun 2022
- REFERENCE: Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits ; WIKIPEDIA.ORG
- Militarisation of Greek islands; WIKIPEDIA.ORG
- REFERENCE: A century-old treaty haunts the Mediterranean; Analysis by Ishaan Tharoor, Columnist | WASHINGTONPOST.COM | August 10, 2020 at 12:00 p.m. EDT
- REFERENCE: The secret pact that became a scapegoat for all of the Middle East’s problems; By Ishaan Tharoor | WASHINGTONPOST.COM | May 17, 2016 at 4:00 a.m. EDT
- REFERENCE: Turkey’s Nationalist Course – RAND Corporation; 2020 RAND Corporation. “Executive Summary”, PDF pages 11-29
- REFERENCE: Treaty of Lausanne ; From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- REFERENCE: Treaty of Sèvres ; From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- REFERENCE: Turkey’s New Maps Are Reclaiming the Ottoman Empire; Erdogan’s aggressive nationalism is now spilling over Turkey’s borders, grabbing land in Greece and Iraq. By Nick Danforth | FOREIGNPOLICY.COM | 2016-Oct-23
- REFERENCE: Truman Doctrine; From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- REFERENCE: Greek Civil War [1943 to 1949]; From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- REFERENCE: Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922); From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- REFERENCE: Turkish claims regarding the demilitarization of islands in the Aegean Sea; Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs | Sunday, 4 September 2022
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