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Women Often Can’t Afford Tampons, Pads In Federal Prisons. That’s About To Change.



While in prison, Topeka K. Sam developed blood clots so severe that when she got her period, she bled through her sanitary pads. Sam desperately needed something more absorbent, which wasn’t available in the commissary. She was told to put her blood-soaked sanitary napkin into a bag and bring it to a male staff member, who would decide whether she could get a thicker pad.

“It was horrifying,” said Sam, now director of dignity at #cut50, a group that works to reduce prison populations. “My anxiety levels would go up every time I had to go ask. Just all the shame comes with that.”

It took five months for Sam to be granted access to the pads she needed.

But heavy-duty pads weren’t the only menstrual hygiene products that were tough to get. In the real world, tampons and pads are expensive. In prison, they’re exorbitantly priced, especially for those earning $5 a month. In federal prison, two tampons cost $5.55. A pair of panty liners go for $1.35. Further, prisons limit the number of pads and tampons that inmates can buy. Some institutions offer these items for free, but they usually don’t supply enough.

A 2015 study by the Correctional Association of New York found that 54 percent of women in prison said they do not get enough sanitary pads.

Sam watched helplessly as other inmates also suffered. Some women walked around in stained jumpsuits. Others fashioned pads out of socks. Some used their weekly allotment of tissues and stuffed them in their underwear.

“Just because you’re incarcerated doesn’t mean your human dignity should be taken away,” said Sam, who also founded a Bronx, New York, nonprofit called Hope House, which provides housing and support to formerly incarcerated women.

Topeka K. Sam served three years in a federal prison on a drug conspiracy charge. Sam now works to empower incarcerated and f

Topeka K. Sam/Instagram

Topeka K. Sam served three years in a federal prison on a drug conspiracy charge. Sam now works to empower incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women.

As demoralizing as the experience was, Sam today said she feels heartened that no woman in federal prison will have to endure what she went through. On Tuesday night, the Senate passed a sweeping criminal justice reform bill, called the First Step Act. The bulk of the legislation focuses on such headline-making issues as shortened prison sentences, opioid addiction and recidivism rates. But it’s the slim, three-sentence section toward the end of the bill, titled “Healthcare Products,” that’s giving women’s rights activists cause to celebrate.

The act requires all federal prisons to provide quality pads and tampons free to inmates.

The bill passed the Senate with broad bipartisan support on Tuesday evening, 87-12. It got expected backing from such progressives as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), and won support from hard-line Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The House is likely to pass the measure soon and send it to President Donald Trump for his signature.

“This is a big win for criminal justice reform,” said Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, author of Periods Gone Public and the women and democracy fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law. “It’s also a win for women and women’s health. Our needs are being taken seriously in this particular context.”

The First Step Act passed with broad bipartisan support on Tuesday evening, 87-12. It was backed by progressives, such as Eli

Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

The First Step Act passed with broad bipartisan support on Tuesday evening, 87-12. It was backed by progressives, such as Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), and hard-line Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

The legislation is part of a growing interest in making menstrual hygiene products more accessible to women who are incarcerated. In 2017, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), along with Warren and others, co-sponsored the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act, which would’ve required federal prisons to provide free tampons and pads to inmates. That bill hasn’t progressed, but it helped put the issue on the map.

Soon after, the Federal Federal Bureau of Prisons issued a memo requiring prisons to give out free tampons and pads. Critics questioned the quality of the products and how well the policy was actually being implemented. 

Some state prisons have since followed suit. In February, the Arizona Department of Corrections announced it would give out free tampons to inmates and would triple the amount of pads it would distribute. In April, Virginia passed a bill requiring jails to give out free tampons and pads. Two months later, New York lawmakers approved similar legislation.

While Weiss-Wolf said she feels heartened by the newest menstrual hygiene legislation, she noted that the female federal inmate population is dwarfed by the number of women incarcerated in state prisons. Women make up 7 percent of the federal prison population, a figure that’s remained steady. But the number of women incarcerated for violating state or local laws has skyrocketed since the 1970s. 

Weiss-Wolf said she hopes that women in federal prisons will now at least get access to more dignified treatment, and that local and state prisons will see how feasible that is. 

“The federal government doing this sets such a high bar and it sends such an important message,” said Weiss-Wolf of the First Step Act. “If they can do it, so can everybody else.”

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Gymboree Files For Bankruptcy For The Second Time In Almost 2 Years




Jan 17 (Reuters) – Children’s clothing retailer Gymboree Group Inc filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the second time in almost two years, and said on Wednesday it will close more than 800 Gymboree and Crazy 8 stores.

The San Francisco-based company said it will also sell its high-end line, Janie and Jack, as well as its intellectual property and online platform.

The company’s Canadian arm, Gymboree Inc, also intends to seek bankruptcy protection, it said.

Gymboree is the second U.S. retailer to file for bankruptcy on Wednesday. Earlier, Shopko Stores, a general merchandise store operator, filed a voluntary petition in Nebraska.

More than 20 U.S. retailers, including Gymboree, Sears Holdings Corp and Toys R US, have filed for bankruptcy since the start

SOPA Images via Getty Images

More than 20 U.S. retailers, including Gymboree, Sears Holdings Corp and Toys R US, have filed for bankruptcy since the start of 2017.

More than 20 U.S. retailers, including Sears Holdings Corp and Toys R US, filed for bankruptcy since the start of 2017, succumbing to the onslaught of fierce e-commerce competition from companies like Amazon Inc.

Gymboree, which started making children’s clothing more than 30 years ago, operates about 540 Gymboree stores and outlets in the United States and Canada. It also has about 265 stores across the United States under the ‘Crazy 8’ brand and 139 shops under ‘Janie and Jack’.

Gymboree Group listed assets in the range of $100 million to $500 million and liabilities of $50 million to $100 million, its court filing showed.

Gymboree earlier filed for bankruptcy protection in June 2017 and was one of the few brick-and-mortar retailers that managed to escape liquidation in a wave of bankruptcies that swept the sector.

The company said it signed an asset purchase deal with Special Situations Investing Group Inc (SSIG), an affiliate of Goldman Sachs & Co LLC, and SSIG will serve as the so-called “stalking-horse” bidder in the sale of Janie and Jack.

Gymboree has received a commitment for $30 million debtor-in-possession financing from Goldman Sachs Specialty Lending Holdings Inc and SSIG.

Gymboree, including all its U.S. subsidiaries, filed the petition in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, it said. Its Canadian arm also intends to seek bankruptcy protection in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. 

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California Utility Tied To Devastating Wildfires To File For Bankruptcy




Pacific Gas and Electric, the power company blamed for sparking several devastating wildfires in California in recent years, announced Monday it will file for bankruptcy later this month.

The company is facing billions of dollars in claims related to November’s Camp fire, which destroyed nearly 19,000 structures and killed at least 86 people, as well as several infernos in 2017.

The Camp fire, which obliterated the town of Paradise, is the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California’s history and was the costliest natural disaster worldwide in 2018. The cause of the blaze is still under investigation, but CNN reported last month it is believed to have started when a PG&E power line came in contact with tree branches.

An attorney representing victims of the fire said there’s “pretty overwhelming” evidence that the utility is at fault, CNBC reported in November.

In October 2017, a series of wind-driven wildfires, aptly named the Northern California “firestorm,” ripped through several counties. Investigators with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection later determined that a dozen of those blazes were started by PG&E equipment and power lines, and that in eight of those cases the company was in violation of state laws concerning maintenance and brush clearing.

PG&E faces at least $30 billion in liabilities from damage during the 2017 and 2018 wildfire seasons. And its stock has plummeted, down 88 percent from late 2017.

The utility plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy around Jan. 29. The announcement comes one day after the resignation of company CEO 

“The people affected by the devastating Northern California wildfires are our customers, our neighbors and our friends, and we understand the profound impact the fires have had on our communities and the need for PG&E to continue enhancing our wildfire mitigation efforts,” interim CEO John Simon said in a statement Monday. “We remain committed to helping them through the recovery and rebuilding process.”

Simon said that a court-supervised bankruptcy “will best enable PG&E to resolve its potential liabilities in an orderly, fair and expeditious fashion.”

Newly inaugurated California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who has prioritized combating California’s wildfire crisis, said in a statement Monday that he will work with lawmakers and stakeholders in the coming months to find “a solution that ensures consumers have access to safe, affordable and reliable service, fire victims are treated fairly, and California can continue to make progress toward our climate goals.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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Elon Musk’s SpaceX To Slash 10 Percent Of Staff




In a major shakeup at Elon Musk’s aerospace company, SpaceX announced Friday that it will cut 10 percent of its employees.

Behind the move is a planned realignment of its workforce in order to meet its long-term business goals. However, it will mean a significant hit for its current labor pool, which numbers roughly 6,000 people.

In a statement, a SpaceX spokesperson told HuffPost the reduction in staff was needed so that the company could set itself up for future successes.

To continue delivering for our customers and to succeed in developing interplanetary spacecraft and a global space-based Internet, SpaceX must become a leaner company. Either of these developments, even when attempted separately, have bankrupted other organizations. This means we must part ways with some talented and hardworking members of our team.

We are grateful for everything they have accomplished and their commitment to SpaceX’s mission. This action is taken only due to the extraordinarily difficult challenges ahead and would not otherwise be necessary.

One of SpaceX’s major goals, as alluded to in its statement, has been to send tourists into space, potentially even landing humans on Mars with a project called Starship. In September, it was revealed that Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa would be among the first passengers on the company’s voyage to the moon, which is expected to take off in 2023.

SpaceX has also embarked on a mission to beam internet services to Earth around the globe through a network of satellites dubbed Starlink, the first set of which will be deployed this year.

Despite the staffing cuts, the company has expressed confidence in its financial standing and its investors, and it plans to launch two missions of its Falcon Heavy rockets along with starting test hops of Starship before year’s end.

On Friday morning, SpaceX marked its first mission of 2019 with the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California. 

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