Assam CM directs state officials to ensure tea garden workers receive bonuses before Durga Puja

Guwahati (Assam) [India], October 13 (ANI): Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Tuesday in a meeting with District Collectors (DCs), and Superintendents of Police (SPs) via video conferencing in Guwahati directed the officials to ensure tea garden workers receive bonuses at the fixed rate before Durga Puja.

In a series of tweets, the Chief Minister’s office informed that Sonowal also reviewed the preparations for giving ‘land pattas’ to 1 lakh landless indigenous families by December 2020.

“Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal reviewed the progress of various schemes in a meeting with DCs and SPs via video conferencing in Guwahati. Inter alia, preparations for giving land pattas to 1 lakh landless indigenous families by December this year was deliberated in the meeting,” the CMO tweeted.

“The Chief Minister directed officials to ensure tea garden workers receive bonuses at the fixed rate before Durga Puja and ensure that all eligible beneficiaries avail benefits of schemes like Arundhati and Orunodoi,” it said in another tweet.

Sonowal further directed the officials to give special attention to law and order situation during Durga Puja and asked them to take steps to cooperate with the public during the festival.

“Reviewing law & order situation in the districts, the CM directed officials to give special attention to the same during Durga Puja festivities. The CM directed officials to take steps to cooperate with the public in observance of Durga Puja rituals and create awareness about following #COVID19 protocols,” CMO said.

CMO added that the Chief Minister further directed the officials to take necessary steps to expedite the issuance of Aadhaar card in all districts of the state.

The week-long festivities for Durga Puja will begin from October 22. (ANI)

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Lowe’s gives $100 million more in bonuses to hourly employees

Shoppers wearing protective masks wait in line to enter a Lowe’s Cos. store in San Bruno, California, U.S., on Wednesday, May 20, 2020.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Lowe’s said Wednesday it will give $100 million more in bonuses to hourly employees, as strong demand for home improvement continues.

It marks the sixth time the home improvement retailer has given additional pay to workers at its stores, distribution centers and support centers during the coronavirus pandemic. It gave bonuses to part-time, full-time and seasonal employees in March, May, July and August. It also increased pay by $2 an hour for the month of April. 

With the latest round, the home improvement retailer will have paid more than $675 million in additional pay to employees this year. It will pay the latest bonuses on Oct. 16. Full-time hourly employees will receive $300 and part-time and seasonal hourly employees will receive $150.

Also Wednesday, Lowe’s announced a cash tender offer for up to $3.5 billion of its outstanding debt securities. The company said the goal of the offer is to reduce its interest expenses and manage the maturities of its debt. 

Other retailers, including Walmart, Target and Kroger, have also given bonuses or increased worker pay during the pandemic. Walmart has given three rounds of bonuses and said it would remain closed on Thanksgiving to give employees time with their families. Target speeded along plans to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour as it phased out a temporary, pandemic-related $2 an hour wage increase.

Customers have shopped at Lowe’s for DIY supplies, kitchen appliances and landscaping tools as they spend more time at home during the pandemic. The global health crisis has also inspired some Americans to move out of cities and buy homes in suburban or rural areas, a trend that analysts predict will drive long-term sales for home improvement retailers.

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Overnight Health Care: House Democrats slam pharma CEOs for price hikes driven by revenue, executive bonuses | Ex-FDA employees express worries to Congress over politicization of vaccines

Welcome to Wednesday night’s Overnight Health Care, where we’re waiting to see if there’s going to be a deal on a new COVID-19 relief package.



a man wearing a suit and tie: Overnight Health Care: House Democrats slam pharma CEOs for price hikes driven by revenue, executive bonuses | Ex-FDA employees express worries to Congress over politicization of vaccines | Fauci said his mask stance was 'taken out of context' by Trump


© Washington Examiner/Pool
Overnight Health Care: House Democrats slam pharma CEOs for price hikes driven by revenue, executive bonuses | Ex-FDA employees express worries to Congress over politicization of vaccines | Fauci said his mask stance was ‘taken out of context’ by Trump

Top House Democrat: Parties ‘much closer’ to a COVID deal ‘than we’ve ever been’

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The head of the House Democratic Caucus said Wednesday that the negotiators seeking an emergency coronavirus deal are “much closer” to a deal than they have been at any point during the long weeks of on-again-off-again talks.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) pointed to comments by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin indicating a willingness to embrace $1.5 trillion in new stimulus spending – a number on par with the bipartisan relief package offered last week by the Problem Solvers Caucus – noting that that figure is far closer to the Democrats’ $2.2 trillion package than Republicans have previously backed.

After almost two months of stalled talks, Mnuchin and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have resumed the negotiations this week by phone. In some sign that progress is being made, Mnuchin met with Pelosi in the Speaker’s office on Wednesday afternoon.

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House Democrats slam pharma CEOs for price hikes driven by revenue, executive bonuses

An explosive staff report from the Democrats on the House Oversight Committee found that the CEOs of Teva and Celgene raised drug prices exponentially for no reason other than to boost profits and inflate executives’ bonuses.

Oversight Democrats at a hearing on Wednesday pressed those CEOs, and put them on the defensive.

Highlights: Internal documents obtained by the committee found Celgene raised the price of the cancer drug Revlimid 22 times.

The drug, approved to treat the blood cancer multiple myeloma, more than tripled in price since its launch in 2005, driven almost exclusively by the need to meet company revenue targets and shareholder earnings goals.

In 2005, a monthly supply of Revlimid was priced at $4,515. Today, the same monthly supply is priced at $16,023, a cost of $719 per pill.

Easy target: The report found that executives at Celgene and Teva specifically targeted the U.S. market for massive increases because Medicare is not allowed to negotiate drug prices.

Context: The Democratic-led report comes just weeks before Election Day, and follows a flurry of mostly empty last-ditch efforts by President Trump aimed at showing he is taking action on drug pricing. Trump has made lowering drug prices a key part of his messaging for years, dating back to the 2016 campaign, but has little to show for all his bluster.

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Atlas, health officials feuds add to Trump coronavirus turmoil

The feuds between White House coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas and top public health officials are raising more questions about President Trump‘s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Atlas, a

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House panel says drugmakers inflated prices to boost profits and reap bonuses

The Democrat-led reports come just weeks before Election Day, and amid efforts by President Donald Trump to show progress on slashing drug costs, one of his 2016 campaign promises.

Neither company immediately responded to requests for comment.

Highlights: Celgene raised the price of cancer medicine Revlimid 22 times since it launched in 2005, more than tripling its price. Those hikes were not necessarily linked with rising costs or innovation: In 2014, for instance, former CEO Mark Alles ordered an emergency price increase so Celgene could meet its quarterly revenue targets.

“I have to consider every legitimate opportunity available to us to improve our Q1 performance,” Alles wrote in an email. He appears before the committee Wednesday along with Bristol CEO Giovanni Caforio.

Bristol continued with another increase after buying Celgene last year. Revlimid now costs more than $16,000 a month.

The panel’s report also details tactics that Teva Pharmaceuticals used to ward off competition, such as introducing new formulations of multiple sclerosis medicine Copaxone and contracting with payers to limit generic substitutions for the blockbuster medicine.

Teva has raised Copaxone’s price 27 times since its launch in 1997, inflating its cost from $10,000 then to nearly $70,000 today. Bonuses for Teva workers soared as well — the committee reports that “lower level employees were aware of the direct link between their compensation and Copaxone’s price and revenue.”

Teva CEO Kåre Schultz testifies for the pharmaceutical company on Sept. 30.

The panel said that other costs, such as rebates that drugmakers pay to pharmacy benefit managers, do not account for the consistently rising drug prices. Manufacturers typically point to these rebates — used to ensure products’ places on insurer formularies — to justify price hikes because a chunk of the cost goes to those payer discounts.

Heart of the pricing debate: Democrats have long pushed for Medicare to directly negotiate prices with drugmakers, a stance that President Donald Trump also took on the 2016 campaign trail. The committee argues that companies are “taking full advantage” of Medicare’s inability under federal law to negotiate.

While Trump abandoned the negotiation plan in office, he has tried and largely failed to advance other measures to cut drug costs. The president this summer announced an ambitious plan to link Medicare payments to lower costs paid abroad — an approach the industry vehemently opposes.

What’s next: Robert Bradway, CEO of Amgen; Mark Trudeau, CEO of Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals; and Thomas Kendris, U.S. president of Novartis, testify on Oct. 1.

Amgen makes Enbrel — one of the world’s best-selling autoimmune drugs — and Sensipar, a kidney failure treatment. Both are blockbuster medicines that have seen significant price increases over the past two decades.

Mallinckrodt sells H.P. Acthar Gel, a decades-old inflammation drug that the manufacturer acquired in 2014 after the previous owner, Questcor, raised its price from $40 to $31,000 per vial. Mallinckrodt continues to raise the price.

Novartis manufactures Gleevec, a cancer medicine that saw prices rise more than 395 percent in roughly 15 years.

The House

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SC House leader wants raises and bonuses, but not now

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The chairman of the House committee that writes South Carolina’s budget said he also wants a small raise for teachers and a $1,000 COVID-19 hazard pay bonus for lower-paid state workers, but now isn’t the time to spend that money.

Instead, House Ways and Means Chairman Murrell Smith said Wednesday he wants to wait until January and make sure COVID-19 hasn’t wrecked the economy even more than state economists have predicted.


The Senate approved the raises and the hazard pay, totaling about $70 million in the state’s roughly $9 billion budget, on Tuesday. They then attacked House members a day later for not taking it up.

Those workers and teachers “received as a thank you from the House of Representatives a big fat zero,” said state Sen. Greg Hembree, a Republican from Horry County on Wednesday.



Smith said he is almost certain the House won’t take up the Senate’s proposal during the special session that ends Sept. 24, but the Sumter Republican is willing to talk about it with senators when the next session of the General Assembly starts in January and Smith hopes economists have a better handle on the COVID-19 economy nearly a year after the pandemic started.


“The only disagreement we have is they are rushing head in to a storm and they don’t know whether the storm is going to last for a month or is going to last for years,” Smith said after Wednesday’s House session.

Smith said he would rather be prudent and wait than spend money the state could have saved and later end up furloughing state workers or make deep cuts in budgets. Smith entered the House nearly 20 years ago and remembers what happened in the Great Recession of 2009 when $1 billion of budgeted revenue evaporated and the state agencies had to make huge cuts that caused damage that many said it took a decade to reverse.


“Let’s be careful. Let’s make sure we don’t make

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SC House Leader Wants Raises and Bonuses, but Not Now | South Carolina News

By JEFFREY COLLINS, Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The chairman of the House committee that writes South Carolina’s budget said he also wants a small raise for teachers and a $1,000 COVID-19 hazard pay bonus for lower-paid state workers, but now isn’t the time to spend that money.

Instead, House Ways and Means Chairman Murrell Smith said Wednesday he wants to wait until January and make sure COVID-19 hasn’t wrecked the economy even more than state economists have predicted.

The Senate approved the raises and the hazard pay, totaling about $70 million in the state’s roughly $9 billion budget, on Tuesday. They then attacked House members a day later for not taking it up.

Those workers and teachers “received as a thank you from the House of Representatives a big fat zero,” said state Sen. Greg Hembree, a Republican from Horry County on Wednesday.

Smith said he is almost certain the House won’t take up the Senate’s proposal during the special session that ends Sept. 24, but the Sumter Republican is willing to talk about it with senators when the next session of the General Assembly starts in January and Smith hopes economists have a better handle on the COVID-19 economy nearly a year after the pandemic started.

“The only disagreement we have is they are rushing head in to a storm and they don’t know whether the storm is going to last for a month or is going to last for years,” Smith said after Wednesday’s House session.

Smith said he would rather be prudent and wait than spend money the state could have saved and later end up furloughing state workers or make deep cuts in budgets. Smith entered the House nearly 20 years ago and remembers what happened in the Great Recession of 2009 when $1 billion of budgeted revenue evaporated and the state agencies had to make huge cuts that caused damage that many said it took a decade to reverse.

“Let’s be careful. Let’s make sure we don’t make rash decisions we regret later,” Smith said.

The House is following the course recommended by Gov. Henry McMaster, who also wanted to copy and paste the 2019-2020 budget, spending at the same levels this budget year at least until January.

The Senate’s budget bill also mostly copied last year’s spending with a few exceptions. They said they answered fears of mid-year cuts if the economy gets worse because of the pandemic by setting aside $500 million of the $775 million left over in previous budgets in case revenue estimates are too high.

The Senate proposal set aside $50 million for education, most of it going toward funding small “step increase” raises for teachers, which amount to several hundred dollars a year given annually as teachers gain experience.

Smith said the House will give teachers those raises in January and included the six months of extra money they should have gotten if the raises were in place when contracts started July 1.

The Senate addition to

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Madison Square Garden Sports Corp. has changed the targets executives must meet to collect bonuses due to its spinoff and the pandemic

“Shareholders oppose ‘one-way executive pay-for-performance’: When performance is good, everyone gets paid well, and when performance is bad, boards adjust awards to protect the downside,” Semler Brossy wrote in a report last month. “They are appropriately wary of that philosophy taking hold.

There are signs that philosophy is taking hold. Some companies suffering big drops in earnings or revenue have decided to swap out those metrics for more favorable ones when tallying up bonuses.

For example, Nike’s board decided to stop basing certain payouts on earnings or revenue after profits fell by 37% last fiscal year. It instead will award those payouts on how well the company’s stock price does over three years. The shift is intended to “ensure sustained engagement and drive key business results during a dynamic and unprecedented period,” the apparel giant said in a regulatory filing.

Others are lowering bonuses to conserve cash.

Hess, the Manhattan-based energy company, changed its bonus plan because turmoil in the oil market led to an adjusted first-half net loss of a half billion dollars. Hess reduced the maximum payout allowed from 200% of “target” to 50%. It said the revised plan would continue to serve as a “performance driver” with “rigorous but obtainable goals.”

MSG Sports said its bonus plan is based on executives reaching internal goals for revenue and adjusted operating income. The company said its board “seeks to make target goals ambitious, requiring meaningful growth over the performance period, while threshold goals are expected to be achievable.”

MSG Sports reported negative revenue of $7 million and a $79 million loss from continuing operations for the quarter ending June 30. That was down from positive revenue of $68 million and a $37 million loss from continuing operations in the year-earlier period. Last month the company laid off 53 people, according to a filing with the state, or about 15% of its staff.

One goal, MSG Sports officials say, is to restore the lost jobs.

“As our business returns to normal operations, we would look to bring back many of these positions,” Chief Executive Andrew Lustgarten said.

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