Article 43


Monday, February 17, 2020

Why America’s Elderly Are Falling Through the Cracks

image: depressed old man

Homelessness Among the Elderly Expected to Triple in 10 Years

By Victoria Vantrol
Invisible People
June 4, 2019

Most adults hope that by the time they reach age 65, they’ll be able to comfortably retire. They may dream of finally having time to pursue their interests or take up new hobbies. There’s a whole other segment of the elderly population, however, that isn’t living the life they dreamed of. These individuals worry about how they will eat, where they will sleep, and what will happen if they get sick.

The number of elderly individuals experiencing homelessness is rising. In the Annual Homeless Assessment Report, released by HUD, the number of elderly individuals experiencing sheltered homelessness nearly doubled from 4.1 percent in 2007 to 8 percent in 2017. Its not slowing down, either. This population is expected to triple over the next decade.

A new study out of UCSF showed that almost half of all elderly homeless people became homeless after age 50. These statistics tells us that whatever the problem is, it’s related to age. The question we need to ask ourselves is, why are the elderly falling through the cracks?

Lack of Retirement Funds and Savings

The people who are most at-risk for falling into homelessness at an older age are poor middle-aged individuals. They’re the ones making ends meet through low-wage jobs, but not making quite enough to put money away for retirement.

Their jobs also aren’t as likely to offer adequate retirement benefits. Only 23% of workers have pension plans, and only 15% of those are in the private sector. Low-paying jobs are the least likely to offer pensions, and even when employers offer programs like a 401(k), theyre not utilized as much by workers with low incomes.

People in general, homeless or not, are less confident about whether they’ll have the money they need to get through 20-40 years of retirement. A big part of this is debt. Around 77% of families with heads of households between ages 55-64 are in debt. This is a big problem when finances are already tight. More money owed means less to put into savings, along with the frightening possibility of foreclosure or wage garnishment.

As a result, more people are expecting to have to work post-retirement. Many don’t even have a definite age at which they’re aiming to retire. There simply is no end or relief in sight.

Injuries, Disabilities, and Illnesses

Americans may be working longer, but at some point theyll no longer be able to perform manual labor. Standing for long periods of time becomes dangerous or even impossible due to health concerns. Disabilities like arthritic and illnesses like chronic pain contribute to people over age 50 not being able to work their former jobs.

To compound the problem, elderly homeless individuals typically have medical needs that those with housing 20 years their senior have. This makes it more difficult for seniors to climb out of homelessness once they enter it.

Most resources and programs are equipped to tackle the major problems facing the general homeless or at-risk population, like mental illness, substance abuse, and housing assistance. Not many offer solutions specifically for the aging, the greatest of which may be physical health.

Government programs are out of date and designed for younger generations. They do not address the entirely different set of factors that place the elderly at risk.

Higher Costs of Living

The current minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. According to the Economic Policy Institute, minimum wage today would need to be $19 per hour to keep up with necessities like food and housing. Nearly everything costs more than it did for baby boomers when they were younger. Gas prices, healthcare costs, and automobile insurance rates are all going up.

While inflation rises higher and higher each year, wage stagnation ensures Americans have a harder time keeping up. When taking all the increased costs into account, wages haven’t increased significantly. Nearly 40 years ago in 1980, minimum wage was $3.10. Its just barely doubled, although the average price of a house has quadrupled since that same year. The median rent has doubled, according to a study from Apartment List.

Even the elderly who do have a pension or retirement account are still living on a fixed income. It doesn’t allow for rapidly rising inflation, much less exorbitant housing costs. A notice regarding a hike in rent or an unexpectedly high medical bill can mean financial ruin and, unfortunately, a step closer to homelessness.

Lack of a Safety Net

Many people turn to close family when they encounter financial hardships. For example, its common for young adults to move in with their parents during the unstable time immediately after college. For several reasons, older adults donҒt always have the same safety net.

Elderly homelessness can begin with a divorce, if ones spouse was the breadwinner and the other unskilled or uneducated. Other times it may be the eldest in a multigenerational household passing away, leaving the younger generations to fend for themselves.

Even if a struggling aging person does have family who can support themҗa son or daughter they can move in withit can be hard to accept the help. This is especially true if thereגs a long-standing problem, like a disability, keeping them from getting back on their feet anytime soon.

Government programs that should provide a safety net, like Social Supplementary Income (SSI), don’t go into effect until an individual reaches age 62. This leaves out those between 50 and 62, who often have quite a few health problems of their own. This is especially problematic if they are low-income, as they’re less likely to receive preventative healthcare.

In addition, the average lifespan of a homeless person living on the street is 65. The tragic implication of this is that many will not even live to reap the benefits of SSI.

Our Response to Homelessness Needs to Adapt

The face of homelessness is changing. We need to take into consideration the unique challenges the elderly bring to the table. Resources and programs simply cannot be allowed to stagnate. We need:

· more affordable, permanent housing for seniors equipped with proper medical care

· to engage the struggling baby boomers and seniors by informing them about the resources that are available

· and finally, we need to empower the elderly by securing legal help when they face issues like foreclosure or financial exploitation. Legal aid is also helpful in securing safety nets for aging individuals, like getting them enrolled in social security when its time.

No one wants to spend their golden years on the streets. Remember, then, to do your part by keeping yourself aware of the problems facing the homeless and advocating for change.


Posted by Elvis on 02/17/20 •
Section Dying America • Section Personal
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Friday, February 14, 2020

Just Married T-Mobile and Sprint

How the T-Mobile-Sprint Merger Legitimizes Monopoly
A federal judge has just deepened Americas corporate concentration crisis.

By Sandeep Vaheesan
Washington Monthly
February 11, 2020

Judge Victor Marreros Tuesday ruling that let T-Mobile take over Sprint just deepened America’s already dire CORPORATE CONCENTRATOIN crisis. By allowing the nations third- and fourth-largest wireless carriers to combine, Marrero has dealt a clear blow to competition in the wireless market and empowered all corporations seeking dominance through mergers and acquisitions.

The Obama administration wisely said no to consolidation that would reduce the number of national wireless carriers to just three. Indeed, the deal will effectively create a new carrier with more than 100 million users. As the states in the case argued, that will likely cost subscribers roughly $4.5 billion annually, as the market will effectively be concentrated between just T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon.

Nevertheless, the Trump administration - and now a federal judge - have rejected the Obama-era policy and permitted a dangerous new level of CONCENTRATION. Tuesday’s decision underscores the need for bright-line rules that deter harmful mergers and acquisitions and instead direct business strategies toward product improvement and investment in new capacity.

Equally disconcerting, the judges decision subverts the Clayton Act, the principal federal anti-merger statute. Passed in 1914 and strengthened in 1950, the law expanded the scope of business activities covered by the Sherman Antitrust Act and outlawed mergers that threaten to reduce competition or tend to create a monopoly.

Judge Marrero’s ruling permits otherwise illegal mergers if the merging corporations can establish productive efficiencies or show that one of the corporations involved is a weakened competitor.

But the Supreme Court clearly rejected these defenses in a series of rulings in the 1960s because they are contrary to the text and purpose of the Clayton Act. While there is a limited failing firm defense - which allows a merger that would create a less competitive market if the company is in danger imminent business failure - Sprint didn’t satisfy its requirements, nor did Marrero purport to apply it. Sprint may not be doing as well as its executives and shareholders would like, but it is not on the verge of collapse or insolvency.

Marrero’s ruling, therefore, leaves it to state attorneys general to keep anti-merger law alive and protect the public. Theyre now the best positioned to take a stand and appeal this decision to the Second Circuit - the most important thing they can do. It is critical they send a strong message to all corporations that they will uphold the law. Powerful firms in concentrated markets shouldn’t be allowed to consolidate even further.


Posted by Elvis on 02/14/20 •
Section Dying America
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Friday, February 07, 2020

Bad Moon Rising Part 80 - Infrastructure Cyber-Threat IV

image: computer chip

Researcher says millions of IoT and surveillance devices that use HiSilicon chips have a trivial backdoor
The Chinese giant has another hot potato on its hands

By Adrian Potoroaca
February 7, 2020

In brief: Huawei is mostly known for its mobile products and telecom equipment, but its HiSilicon subsidiary produces chips that end up in many IoT products, including surveillance systems. A Russian researcher found that most of the companies that use HiSilicon chips use firmware that makes it trivial to take complete control of millions of DEVICES that are currently in use around the world.

Back in December, Huawei SAID it had reached record revenues of $122 billion, even as the US greatly restricted its ability to do business with American companies. Between the optimistic lines in its report, the Chinese giant warned that 2020 would be a challenging year, with lots of bumps in the road.

However, the company probably didn’t expect to see yet another security vulnerability affecting one of its products be disclosed just as it’s tackling CORONAVIRUS CONCERNS.

Recently, Russian security researcher Vladislav Yarmak published a worrying analysis of backdoor mechanism discovered in Hangzhou Xiongmai Technology firmware, which makes it trivial to take control of millions of security cameras, DVRs, NVRs, and other IoT devices using HiSilicon chips.

For those of you who don’t know, HiSilicon is a Huawei subsidiary that makes the chips that go in all of its products, including the fancy foldable Mate X smartphone that costs $2,400 and is reportedly selling better than Samsung’s Galaxy Fold. To put things in context, HiSilicon is the largest of the Chinese silicon giants, with many companies relying on its integrated circuits for their various products.

Yarmak says the backdoor mechanism is actually using a mix of exploits that take advantage of bugs that were discovered years ago, in 2017 and even as far back as March 2013. And since reporting those previous vulnerabilities led to no actual fix being deployed by HiSilicon, the researcher recommends owners of devices using HiSilicon chips switch as soon as possible to alternative solutions.

You can find a list of known brands affected HERE. If you can’t afford the hardware switch, Yarmak noted you should bolster security by restricting access to device ports 9530/TCP, 9527/TCP, and 23/TCP - all of which can be exploited using the proof of concept code he published on GitHub.

The way it works is that some older versions of the firmware used in products that are based on HiSilicon SoCs rely on access to telnet for remote connections. Telnet is enabled by default on these, so an attacker can get full access to these devices by using “a static root password which can be recovered from the firmware image with relatively little computation effort.”

Newer versions of the firmware come with telnet access disabled by default, but also have TCP port 9530 open for special commands, a feature which Yarmak says was intentionally baked in by HiSilicon, who didn’t bother to fix the new exploit published for it in 2017. Add to that the questionable practice of keeping a short list of static passwords that act as a backdoor to millions of IoT and surveillance products used worldwide, and you have a security nightmare.

To be fair, HiSilicon isn’t directly responsible here, as the vulnerability only affects products that use firmware developed by Xiongmai Technology and XMtech. The Huawei subsidiary published a security notice explaining that its SDKs don’t have the vulnerability presented by Yarmak in his report. The company noted that “Huawei (and its affiliates worldwide, including HiSilicon) has long committed that it has not and will never place backdoors nor allow anyone else to do so.”

As far as Huawei is concerned, the Telnet services were deleted on all devices it distributes directly to end users. Also, the overall narrative hasn’t changed - last year, the Chinese giant insisted that backdoors found by Vodafone in critical network equipment were “weaknesses.” To this day, the company is still fighting for the right to supply equipment to rural carriers in the US, even though its chances remain low.


Posted by Elvis on 02/07/20 •
Section Bad Moon Rising
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