Sheriff: Baldwin fired prop gun that killed cinematographer

By MORGAN LEE and WALTER BERRY

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun on a movie set and killed the cinematographer, authorities said. The director of the Western being filmed was wounded, and authorities are investigating what happened.

Halyna Hutchins, cinematographer on the movie “Rust,” and director Joel Souza were shot Thursday on the rustic film set in the desert on the southern outskirts of Santa Fe, New Mexico, according to County Sheriff’s officials.

A spokesperson for Baldwin said there was an accident on the set involving the misfire of a prop gun with blanks, though a charge without a metal projectile is unlikely to kill at a moderate distance. Sheriff’s spokesman Juan Rios said detectives were investigating how and what type of projectile was discharged.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported the 63-year-old Baldwin was seen Thursday outside the sheriff’s office in tears, but attempts to get comment from him were unsuccessful.

Hutchins, 42, was airlifted to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where she was pronounced dead by medical personnel, the sheriff’s department said. Souza, 48, was taken by ambulance to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, where he is undergoing treatment.

“The details are unclear at this moment, but we are working to learn more, and we support a full investigation into this tragic event,” International Cinematographers Guild president John Lindley and executive director Rebecca Rhine said in a statement.

Sheriff’s deputies responded about 2 p.m. to the movie set at the Bonanza Creek Ranch after 911 calls described a person being shot on set, said Rios, the sheriff’s spokesman. The ranch has been used in dozens of films, including the recent Tom Hanks Western “News of the World.”

“This investigation remains open and active,” Rios said in a statement. “No charges have been filed in regard to this incident. Witnesses continue to be interviewed by detectives.”

Hutchins, a 2015 graduate of the American Film Institute, worked as director of photography on the 2020 action film “Archenemy,” starring Joe Manganiello. She was named a “rising star” by American Cinematographer in 2019.

“I’m so sad about losing Halyna. And so infuriated that this could happen on a set,” said “Archenemy” director Adam Egypt Mortimer on Twitter. “She was a brilliant talent who was absolutely committed to art and to film.”

Manganiello called Hutchins “an incredible talent” and “a great person” on his Instagram account. He said he was lucky to have worked with her.

Baldwin teamed up as a producer previously with Souza on the 2019 film, “Crown Vic,” which starred Thomas Jane as a veteran Los Angeles police officer on a manhunt for two violent bank robbers. Souza’s first credited film, 2010’s “Hanna’s Gold,” was a treasure hunt adventure featuring Luke Perry.

Production was halted on “Rust.” The movie is about a 13-year-old boy who is left to fend for himself and his younger brother following the death of their parents in 1880s’ Kansas, according to the Internet Movie Database website. The teen goes on the run with his long-estranged grandfather (played by Baldwin) after the boy is sentenced to hang for the accidental killing of a local rancher.

In 1993, Brandon Lee, 28, son of the late martial-arts star Bruce Lee, died after being hit by a .44-caliber slug while filming a death scene for the movie “The Crow.” The gun was supposed to have fired a blank, but an autopsy turned up a bullet lodged near his spine.

A Twitter account run by Lee’s sister Shannon said: “Our hearts go out to the family of Halyna Hutchins and to Joel Souza and all involved in the incident on ‘Rust.’ No one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set. Period.”

In 1984, actor Jon-Erik Hexum died after shooting himself in the head with a prop gun blank while pretending to play Russian roulette with a .44 Magnum on the set of the television series “Cover Up.”

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Berry reported from Phoenix. Associated Press film writer Jake Coyle contributed to this report.

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NBA season tips off today: Lakers, Clippers and what you need to know

Another NBA season has arrived, and there’s plenty of reason to believe the next team to hoist the Larry O’Brien championship trophy could be one of the two that call Staples Center home.

The Lakers open their season Tuesday night with a home game against Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors (7 p.m., TNT), while the Clippers travel to San Francisco for their season opener on Thursday night (7 p.m., TNT), also against the Warriors.

LeBron James and the Lakers spent training camp and preseason play trying to blend Russell Westbrook and a largely overhauled, veteran-heavy roster together while laughing off the steady stream of old-guy jokes and memes being volleyed in their direction.

Paul George and the Clippers are convinced that the confidence they gained and the chemistry they forged during their breakthrough run to the Western Conference finals will help offset the uncertainty of if/when All-Star Kawhi Leonard will rejoin them after rehabbing his knee injury. Will he make it back before the playoffs? If he does, will anyone want to tangle with them in a first-round series?

Lakers beat writer Kyle Goon and Clippers beat writer Mirjam Swanson have provided plenty to get you ready for the season ahead, and they’ll keep you informed until the final buzzer sounds in June. If you’re a fan of either team, you should be following Kyle and/or Mirjam on Twitter, if you’re not already doing so.

In case you missed anything recently, here is a list of links to some content to help get you caught up:

LAKERS

Russell Westbrook got what he wanted, but will he capitalize?

LeBron James’ patience will be tested by the team he helped create

Lakers are a target for scrutiny after superstar moves this summer

Lakers hope ‘chaos’ of off-ball movement adds to their offense

Lakers see their age as an advantage, not a punchline

With Trevor Ariza out, Lakers poised to lean on their size

In Lakers’ leisure world, Westbrook is a raging fountain of youth

DeAndre Jordan settles into new phase of his career

Lakers add Avery Bradley, bolstering defensive depth

Lakers rookie Austin Reaves thrust into duty as injuries mount

Lakers 2021-22 roster: A closer look

Lakers 2021-22 schedule: 5 can’t-miss games to watch

CLIPPERS

Paul George ready to lead with expanded role

Clippers miss Kawhi Leonard but appreciate his coaching

Tyronn Lue gets rave reviews for his in-game moves

Clippers’ Luke Kennard is serious about big fish, big shots

• Clippers won’t rush Kawhi Leonard’s recovery, Lawrence Frank says

Clippers believe Eric Bledsoe will fit right back in

Justise Winslow getting acclimated to wide-ranging role

Clippers celebrate Intuit Dome groundbreaking in Inglewood

Will the Clippers be ready when their Inglewood arena is done in 2024?

Clippers’ Steve Ballmer optimistic about short- and long-term prospects

Clippers 2021-22 roster: A closer look

Clippers 2021-22 schedule: 5 can’t-miss games to watch

LEAGUE-WIDE

Seemingly every title contender has serious question marks

Western Conference preview and predictions

Eastern Conference preview and predictions

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When good money intentions lead to poor outcomes

I’ve seen it happen many times. Parent believes their estate is simple and their kids all get along. So, the parent either avoids doing any estate planning and instead creatively titles their assets, or a parent puts an estate plan in place that attempts to treat the children equally, whether that’s fair or not.

Often, it is these very actions by the parents that cause disharmony among the children.

No estate plan

A common action taken to avoid doing any actual estate planning is to title property (typically the family home, but sometimes bank accounts) as “joint tenants” with another party so that when the first party dies the assets go to the joint tenant. This works in a narrow set of circumstances — there is only one intended beneficiary, and the party owning the assets has a short life expectancy.

A parent putting one child on title as a joint tenant with the intention, however well-meaning, that the one named child will “share” with the other children, is a disaster waiting to happen. At a parent’s death, there is no legal requirement that favored Freddie share with his siblings.

Freddie may well feel he “deserved” the money or other asset and keep it for himself. This is often the case when the child named on accounts or real property is also the child who primarily took care of the parent before their death. That child’s resentment of the less involved siblings may cloud their judgment about doing what mom or dad wanted. The other children will have no legal recourse.

Also, while both names are on the account, creditors of both parties may be able to seize the account. Even if favored Freddie means to follow mom’s wishes, if he’s got an IRS lien or another creditor out there, the creditor will likely get the asset before the siblings do.

If the assets make it past the creditor after the parents’ death and Freddie is willing to do as mom or dad wished, Freddie will still have to consider the tax consequences of cutting his siblings in. Any transfer from Freddie to the siblings will be considered a gift from Freddie.

If it’s under the $15,000 per gift recipient annual gift tax exemption, there are no gift tax consequences. If it’s over that amount, Freddie will need to use up some of his own gift/estate tax exemption. That won’t make Freddie’s own heirs happy if Freddie winds up with a taxable estate. There may also be income tax consequences if Freddie has to liquidate assets to pay out his siblings’ shares.

Payable on death accounts

Sometime in the last few years, banks must have decided that it’s easier for them to deal with a “payable on death” designation than the client’s actual wishes set out in a trust.

Lately, I’ve seen too many clients, after we’ve carefully discussed and crafted their estate plan, confronted with a bank employee who advises that instead of putting an account in the name of the trust, the client should just fill out the bank’s “payable on death” form.

The form is rarely sufficient to cover the planning done, the “if not this person, then this person, but never that person” worked out in the trust, it does not allow for holding the assets in a trust, and is of course, useless in the event of the client’s incapacity.

In short, do not take legal advice from a banker — no matter how good their intentions.

Trustee mistakes

On choosing a trustee

Even when an estate plan is enacted, including a will and trust, good intentions can have bad results. Clients sometimes have difficulty choosing a trustee. They don’t want to seem to favor someone over someone else, or they don’t want to burden a family member. These are valid concerns.

The job of a trustee is a serious job and requires time and attention. Some trust administrations go on for up to a year after the trust maker’s death, many go on for years and years after, and some for generations.

Parents are often inclined to name the oldest child, all of their children, the child who lives closest, or the child with the most time on their hands, as the trustee. None of these are valid reasons for choosing a trustee.

If you’re going to choose a child as a trustee, chose the one with the best financial sense, the one who gets along best with the other children, the smartest one, the one with the best sense of fairness, the most organized one, or the best looking one (okay, kidding about that last one).

One trustee

Notice I’m saying “one.”

One trustee to make decisions, carry out the trust terms, and be the main point of contact for the beneficiaries, the accountant, and the attorney, is generally the best approach. If you have only two children, sure, name them both. If they disagree, they’re only harming themselves.

But what if one of them is really irrational? One’s spouse influences them more than you’d like? One travels extensively and won’t be available to do their share of the work?

In those and similar situations, name the other child only. Naming three or four people to serve as co-trustees is unwieldy in even the best circumstances—trustees sign a lot of documents and forms and not all can be signed electronically; many require notarizing. Plus, if there’s a tie in a vote, nothing gets done. Not to mention an attorney or accountant having to talk to multiple trustees gets expensive.

Estate planning is one area where your good intentions to keep things simple and cheap could have a permanent, terrible outcome. As Thomas Edison once said, “A good intention with a bad approach, often leads to a poor result.”  Having a carefully thought-out estate plan is a gift to your family and other beneficiaries. It’s your final gift. It’s worth taking the time to make informed decisions.

Teresa J. Rhyne is an attorney practicing in estate planning and trust administration in Riverside and Paso Robles, CA. She is also the #1 New York Times bestselling author of “The Dog Lived (and So Will I)” and “Poppy in The Wild.”  You can reach her at Teresa@trlawgroup.net

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‘Pandora Papers’ bring renewed calls for tax haven scrutiny

By PAUL WISEMAN and MARCY GORDON

WASHINGTON (AP) — Calls grew Monday for an end to the financial secrecy that has allowed many of the world’s richest and most powerful people to hide their wealth from tax collectors.

The outcry came after a report revealed the way that world leaders, billionaires and others have used shell companies and offshore accounts to keep trillions of dollars out of government treasuries over the past quarter-century, limiting the resources for helping the poor or combating climate change.

The report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists brought promises of tax reform and demands for resignations and investigations, as well as explanations and denials from those targeted.

The investigation, dubbed the Pandora Papers, was published Sunday and involved 600 journalists from 150 media outlets in 117 countries.

Hundreds of politicians, celebrities, religious leaders and drug dealers have used shell companies or other tactics to hide their wealth and investments in mansions, exclusive beachfront property, yachts and other assets, according to a review of nearly 12 million files obtained from 14 firms located around the world.

“The Pandora Papers is all about individuals using secrecy jurisdictions, which we would call tax havens, when the goal is to evade taxes,” said Steve Wamhoff, director of federal tax policy at the left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy in Washington.

The tax dodges can be legal.

Gabriel Zucman, a University of California, Berkeley, economist who studies income inequality and taxes, said in a statement one solution is “obvious’: Ban “shell companies — corporations with no economic substance, whose sole purpose is to avoid taxes or other laws.’

“The legality is the true scandal,” activist and science-fiction author Cory Doctorow wrote on Twitter. “Each of these arrangements represents a risible fiction: a shell company is a business, a business is a person, that person resides in a file-drawer in the desk of a bank official on some distant treasure island.”

The more than 330 current and former politicians identified as beneficiaries of the secret accounts include Jordan’s King Abdullah II, former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso, and associates of both Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Some of those targeted strongly denied the claims.

Oxfam International, a British consortium of charities, applauded the Pandora Papers for exposing brazen examples of greed that deprived countries of tax revenue that could be used to finance programs and projects for the greater good.

“This is where our missing hospitals are,” Oxfam said in a statement. “This is where the pay-packets sit of all the extra teachers and firefighters and public servants we need.”

The European Commission, the 27-nation European Union’s executive arm, said in response to the revelations that it is preparing new legislative proposals to enhance tax transparency and reinforce the fight against tax evasion.

The Pandora Papers are a follow-up to a similar project released in 2016 called the “Panama Papers” compiled by the same journalistic group.

The latest bombshell is even more expansive, relying on data leaked from 14 different service providers doing business in 38 different jurisdictions. The records date back to the 1970s, but most are from 1996 to 2020.

The investigation dug into accounts registered in familiar offshore havens, including the British Virgin Islands, Seychelles, Hong Kong and Belize. But some were also in trusts set up in the U.S., including 81 in South Dakota and 37 in Florida.

The document trove reveals how powerful people are able to deploy anonymous shell companies, trusts and other artifices to conceal the true owners of corrupt or illicit assets. Legally sanctioned trusts, for example, can be subject to abuse by tax evaders and fraudsters who crave the privacy and autonomy they offer compared with traditional business entities.

Shell companies, a favored tax evasion vehicle, are often layered in complex networks that conceal the identity of the beneficial owners of assets — those who ultimately control an offshore company or other asset, or benefit from it financially, while other people’s names are listed on registration documents. The report said, for example, that an offshore company was used to buy a $4 million Monaco apartment for a woman who reportedly carried on a secret relationship with Putin.

While a beneficial owner may be required to pay taxes in the home country, it’s often difficult for authorities to discover that an offshore account exists, especially if offshore governments don’t cooperate.

A Treasury Department agency working on new regulations for a U.S. beneficial ownership directory has been debating whether partnerships, trusts and other business entities should be included. Transparency advocates say they must or else criminals will devise new types of paper companies for slipping through the cracks.

International bodies like the G7 group of wealthiest nations and the Financial Action Task Force have begun initiatives in recent years to improve ownership transparency, but the efforts have moved at a modest pace.

Pointing to the secrecy behind many of the tax dodges, some critics are calling for a global wealth registry that would make sham investments in shell companies public, embarrassing politicians or celebrities worried about their reputations.

In the U.S., the House passed legislation this summer that would require multinational corporations to publicly disclose their tax payments and other key financial information on a country-by-country basis. Anti-money laundering and corporate transparency measures were tucked into legislation funding the Defense Department; it has yet to be implemented by the Treasury Department.

The Biden administration is also pushing for U.S banks to be required to report customers’ account information to the IRS as part of the $3.5 trillion economic and social spending package before Congress. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and other officials say it’s an important way to prevent tax dodging by wealthy individuals and companies, but it has raised fierce opposition from banking industry groups and Republican lawmakers, who maintain it would violate privacy and create unfair liability for banks.

Tax havens have already come under considerable scrutiny this year.

In July, negotiators from 130 countries agreed to a global minimum tax of at least 15% to prevent big multinational corporations from minimizing taxes by shifting profits from high- to low-tax jurisdictions such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. Details of the plan by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, have yet to be worked out; it’s supposed to take effect in 2023.

And while the plan would cover huge multinational corporations, it would not include the shell companies and other entities behind the schemes described in the Pandora Papers.

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Associated Press writers Stan Choe in New York and John Rice in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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This story was first published on October 4, 2021. It was updated on October 5, 2021 to remove a photo with a caption that erroneously identified Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan as one of 330 current and former politicians who reportedly benefitted from secret accounts. The report identified Khan’s associates as beneficiaries, but not Khan himself.

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Best in Law: Tips for better business-city relations

Smart entrepreneurs and business owners understand that success comes not only from strong internal operations but also through good relationships with community partners, local officials and city leaders. Too often, businesses overlook or fail to prioritize municipal relations and focus only on client growth.

When deciding where to launch a business, business owners invest a significant amount of time, money and other resources, weighing taxes, infrastructure, access, quality of life and workforce. Once a business opens, however, owners may forget the many benefits of their location and therefore miss opportunities for growth. By focusing on relationships with city officials, business owners can remain in tune with, and maximize the benefits of, the cities in which they operate.

Below are some key practices that can allow both businesses and municipalities to flourish:

Get to know city officials

No matter the type of business, it is beneficial to meet city employees and officials. For instance, an architectural firm would be wise to get to know their city engineer or chief building official, as this relationship may expedite or avoid any problems with the development of residential, commercial or industrial projects. Perhaps a business requires substantial water or waste service, such as a food packaging plant or recycling operation — knowing the general manager of municipal utilities may help ensure that the city has a clear picture of the company’s waste or water needs, and how best to collaborate to meet those needs.

Small business owners would also be wise to become acquainted with their elected city officials. Today more than ever, councilmembers are actively involved with constituents, sometimes meeting directly with small business owners, or hosting informal meetings at coffee shops or restaurants. Councilmembers should be made aware of what local businesses need to survive and thrive.

Learn all pertinent rules, regulations and expectations.

It’s important that business owners understand city rules and regulations to avoid litigation, which is time-consuming, costly and impacts daily operations.

A restauranteur who wants to create an outdoor seating area should first check to find out if special permits are required. A shop owner who wants to expand by adding a second story should first find out if doing so will violate any zoning laws. A Realtor who wants to remove several old trees blocking the office view front should find out if the trees are on city property, so as to avoid a potential fine. A comprehensive understanding of city rules and regulations decreases the risk of citations and litigation.

Understand the city’s goals

Similar to a business, each city has a unique culture and personality. It is crucial that business owners understand city goals and ways in which they may help to advance them. Is the city trying to reduce its carbon footprint by promoting recycling or clean energy? If so, business owners can help themselves and the city by recycling more, reducing energy costs, or using solar or wind power.

Does the city want to preserve its original buildings and architecture for future generations? Then businesses may find incentives to expand without knocking down original walls, changing vintage light fixtures or painting over historical murals. Owners should strive to understand the city’s short- and long-term goals, just as they want their own goals to be understood.

Act on all communications

A business owner should never ignore the city. If the city threatens to take legal action, business owners should respond immediately and work to resolve the dispute on the front end.

If a business is cited for not following a rule or regulation, owners should make the correction, pay the fine or file an appeal. All too often business owners will ignore city communications, which is hugely detrimental. The relationship between a business and city should be symbiotic. Issues should be addressed early and head-on.

Your business is more than a business. It is more than a single restaurant, bar, salon, shop or firm. It is where you likely spend most of every day. It is the product of your hard work, hopes and dreams. It is your life. With just a bit of extra time and focus, businesses can truly flourish in their local communities. Harmonious business-city relations can allow for tremendous benefits to business leadership, employees and clientele.

Damian Northcutt is a litigator and member of Best Best & Krieger LLP’s Business practice group. His practice focuses on all phases of pre-trial litigation in matters related to business, real estate and property litigation, and health care law. Damian works closely with private companies and public entities to find early resolutions to challenging business disputes. He can be reached at damian.northcutt@bbklaw.com.

 

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What’s the real cost of a real estate downpayment?

As you’ve read here a number of times, buying commercial real estate is a great way to build generational wealth. It’s like a jelly of the month club. By that, I mean the gift that keeps on giving!

Many who read this column have founded an enterprise housed in a parcel of commercial real estate which they also own. So, the occupying company earns income through its business operation and pays rent for use of the building. Company value increases over time and the address appreciates. A double whammy!

Southern California has countless entrepreneurial stories whereby a generation took a risk, formed a company, bought a location and succeeding family members benefited. I have the privilege of counseling these family-owned and operated manufacturing and logistics businesses.

Recently, a conversation struck me as particularly column-worthy. Specifically, how much should be allocated for a down payment when considering a buy? The easy answer is 10% of the purchase price if leveraged through the Small Business Administration and 20-30% when financed conventionally. Boom. Done. See y’all next week.

But, wait, there’s more … substantially more to the story of originating a loan. So, please stay tuned for a minute more.

In addition to the 10-30%, suggested would be to budget for the following:

Appraisal: Regardless of your lender choice – SBA, bank, insurance company, or hard money – an appraisal will be completed. Contained within the bank’s underwriting is a confirmation the price paid is in line with the market. Plan on $2,500-$5,000 for this review.

Environmental: Lurking beneath the surface of your purchase could be a problem. These unseen issues are caused by something toxic deposited in the soil. A review of the previous occupants in the building, messy neighbors, and the smokestack down the street combined with a look at old aerial photos – forms what is known as a phase I environmental report.

Generally, this does the trick and provides a clean bill of health. If environmental concerns rise – such as stained concrete or containers of waste – a phase two will be employed. Soil borings are sampled and tested. Recommendations range from no further action to remediation.

Have you ever seen a pile of dirt inside yellow tape next to a gas pump at your local station? No. It’s not an episode of CSI. Aeration is one way to get the bad stuff out of the soil. Plan on $2,500 for subsequent phases if remediation is required.

Legal: You’re going to want an attorney to review the purchase agreement, title commitment, and draw your LLC formation documents. Budget around $10,000.

Escrow and title: Sure, the seller pays for a standard policy but any lender policies or extended coverage are yours to bear. Plus, you’ll pay half of the escrow fees. Another $10,000, but that’s dependent upon deal size.

Survey: This is not always necessary unless you’re after an extended policy of title insurance. Unrecorded easements, abandoned driveways, and recorded leases are typically not covered with a standard policy. Utility locations, property lines, and underground pipes are clearly mapped as well. $5000 is reasonable.

Loan points: In addition to the interest payments due over the term of your debt, you’ll pay a percentage of your loan amount to the bank. 1-2% is pretty typical.

Cost segregation: One of the really cool things about owning commercial real estate is the depreciation that lowers your income tax burden. The improved portion of your parcel – the buildings – can be depreciated over 39 years on a straight line — 1/39th each year. But other components of the improvements such as walls, doors, glass and air conditioning have a shorter useful life, and if properly segregated, can be written off sooner. Usually, your CPA can help with this. She’ll want to be paid, though. $15,000 seems fair.

Once you become the owner, gather and total your receipts. Add all you spent to the 10-30% down payment. What results is the “true” investment into your buy.

Allen C. Buchanan, SIOR, is a principal with Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Services in Orange. He can be reached at abuchanan@lee-associates.com or 714.564.7104.

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Merck says pill cuts risk of Covid-19 hospitalization, death in half as many states see vaccinations increase

By Travis Caldwell | CNN

A pill has cut the risk of hospitalization or death from Covid-19 by half in a study, Merck and Ridgeback Therapeutic said Friday.

It would become the first oral antiviral for Covid-19 if approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization.

“At the interim analysis, molnupiravir reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by approximately 50%,” Merck said in a news release. “7.3% of patients who received molnupiravir were either hospitalized or died through Day 29 following randomization (28/385), compared with 14.1% of placebo treated patients (53,377). Through Day 29, no deaths were reported in patients who received molnupiravir, as compared to 8 deaths in patients who received placebo.”

Merck said it will seek FDA emergency use authorization “as soon as possible.”

Experts have said that developing an oral antiviral could be the next chance to thwart Covid-19. A short-term regimen of daily pills would aim to fight the virus early after diagnosis and prevent symptoms from developing after exposure.

One antiviral drug has been approved to treat Covid. Remdesivir is given intravenously to sick patients in the hospital. It is not meant for early, widespread use.

Some states are seeing increased vaccinations

Meanwhile, as more states and health care systems move toward mandatory inoculations for certain workers, officials are hoping the incentive of employment will eliminate vaccine hesitancy — while one governor is arranging contingency scenarios.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont has instructed the National Guard to prepare in case there are staffing shortages when a vaccine mandate and testing requirement goes into effect at the end of Monday, he said. State employees must provide proof of vaccination or submit to weekly testing requirements by the deadline, and those who don’t comply will be placed on unpaid leave.

As of Thursday, more than 63% — 20,000 employees — were fully vaccinated while 12% of employees have started weekly testing, Lamont said. More than 8,000 non-compliant employees remain, yet some 2,000 have updated their status in the last two days.

“We have provided most state employees with the option to get tested weekly instead of getting vaccinated, providing more flexibility than our neighboring states. We have also provided our employees with a compliance grace period. There is no reason all our employees should not be in compliance,” Lamont said.

Connecticut is just one of several states that face pushback over mandating vaccinations for critical workers, a move that has been highlighted by health experts as necessary to protect those at a higher risk for Covid-19, but which has been met with stiff resistance from a vocal minority who wish to remain both unvaccinated and in their current roles.

In Rhode Island, the department of health announced in August that “all employees, interns, and volunteers in RIDOH-licensed healthcare facilities” would be required to get their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine by Friday.

Care New England, one of the largest hospital systems in the state, reported Thursday that over 95% of its healthcare workforce has been vaccinated. Staff vaccination “continues to climb by the day and the hour,” according to the system’s CEO James E. Fanale.

The deadline has already passed in other states. California’s 2 million health care workers needed to be vaccinated by Thursday or risk losing their jobs, with exemptions available for religious beliefs or qualifying medical reasons.

Many hospitals that CNN surveyed had high vaccination rates among employees, averaging over 90% at some of the state’s largest healthcare systems.

In New York, none of the health care facilities shut down as a result of vaccine mandates for workers, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Thursday. Earlier this week, it was reported that 92% of nursing home staff, 89% of adult care facilities staff, and 92% of hospital staff have received at least one dose statewide.

“You will see that number go higher quickly, because what we’re finding is, you know, as more people are furloughed or suspended, that that number is going to go up,” Hochul said.

Some area hospitals had reported suspending employees without pay or temporarily halting elective inpatient procedures due to shortages.

Vaccines for ages 5-11 may be available soon, but poll finds hesitancy remains

As the Delta variant continues to spread, health care employees are far from the only who deal with everyday risks on the job. The resumption of in-person learning in schools has already been complicated by Covid-19 outbreaks and the quarantining of exposed students and staff.

Yet despite evidence that vaccinations are lowering Covid-19 infections and severity among eligible age groups, there is still hesitancy among parents and guardians about inoculating children ages 5 to 11, according to a new survey.

Only around one-third of parents of 5- to 11-year-olds say that they will vaccinate their child as soon as a vaccine becomes available for that age group, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation Vaccine Monitor results published Thursday. A similar percentage, 32%, say that they will wait and see how the vaccine is working, and 24% say that they definitely won’t get their 5- to 11-year-olds vaccinated.

According to the report, 58% of parents said that K-12 schools should require masks in school for all students and staff, 4% said masks should be required only for unvaccinated students and staff, and 35% said there should be no mask requirements.

There is a split between vaccinated and unvaccinated parents polled, KFF found, with 73% of vaccinated parents saying schools should require masks for all students and 63% of unvaccinated parents saying there should be no mask requirements.

The bulk of interviews, conducted September 13 to 22 from a sample of more than 1,500 adults, were before Pfizer announced that clinical trials showed their Covid-19 vaccine was safe and generated an immune response in this age group.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is approved for people age 16 and older and has an emergency use authorization for people ages 12 to 15. On Tuesday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced they submitted data on children ages 5 to 11 to the FDA for initial review but are not yet seeking emergency use authorization.

A formal submission to request EUA for the vaccine is expected to follow in the coming weeks, the companies said in a statement.

Among those already eligible for vaccines, the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that nearly 200 million US adults have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine. Nearly 67% of US adults are fully vaccinated.

Death rates in nonmetropolitan areas are higher, study finds

Meanwhile, researchers are looking at the effects the pandemic is having on different parts of the nation.

Deaths from Covid-19 in nonmetropolitan areas are now occurring at more than twice the rate of deaths from Covid-19 in metropolitan areas, according to an analysis of Johns Hopkins University data from the University of Iowa’s Center for Health Policy Analysis.

After analyzing data on average Covid-19 death rates at the county level, it was determined that in the two weeks ending September 15, 2021, nonmetropolitan areas had an average of 0.85 Covid-19 deaths for every 100,000 residents. Metropolitan areas had an average half that — 0.41 Covid-19 deaths for every 100,000 residents.

Deaths in nonmetropolitan areas have outpaced those in metropolitan areas consistently since the beginning of the study in April 2020, and the numbers from September 15 are the fourth time overall that the nonmetropolitan death rate has been at least double the metropolitan death rate. However, the nonmetropolitan rate had not been double that of metropolitan areas since December 1, 2020.

The researchers used US Department of Agriculture methodology to differentiate between metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. Counties were logged as metropolitan if they had an urban area with 50,000 or more people or were an outlying county with strong economic ties to an urban center. All other counties in the study were coded as nonmetropolitan.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

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What will come of commercial real estate tax breaks?

As one Register columnist once wrote, “they’re only opinions, but they’re all mine!” Today, I purge my inbox for another edition of a random commercial real estate thoughts. I find the occasional purge cathartic. So here it goes.

Gender reveal. Some of you may have noticed my more frequent use of “she” when describing the gender of property owners or tenants. Yes, one of my readers scolded me. I realized I had erred and thus the morph. So, sorry if I offended.

Insomnia. My recent column on the number one problem I hear voiced by business owners – a lack of skilled workers – met with some commentary. Specifically, my reference to our “subsidy” for those without work. The fact remains: Unemployment is rampant and we’ve done a poor job training our youth in the jobs that exist, specifically the trades.

Electricians, carpenters, structural steel erectors, concrete finishers, roofers all crowd any construction site. These craftsmen create the concrete caissons commercial real estate agents are tasked to fill. Unfortunately, there’s a huge yawn with those trained in more white-collar arenas, especially over a certain age. However, I don’t see these capable grey hairs as candidates to build structures.

Frothy or calm. Folks ask “how’s the market?” I respond with “it depends.”

If your specialty is industrial – manufacturing and logistics properties and you represent owners – you are an order taker. You simply manage the flood of activity surrounding your offering and choose from a number of takers.

Conversely, counseling tenants or buyers often fills the day filled with endless searches to locate an availability and setting expectations when one is uncovered. The rules pursuing an off-market offering change. Owner motivation is not as keen. Brokers who market suites of offices must deal with systemic uncertainty. Questions such as – “how much space do we actually need and when” are board room topics.

Coming downturn. “When will the music stop” columns always garner some interest. Inflation is rampant, supply chains disrupted, shortages of everything occurring, and national debt levels are rising yet we continue to torpedo previously high sale and lease comps. These days we are forced to price offerings as TBD – a hedge against leaving dollars on the dais.

Finally, what will the balance of 2021 bring? Many say it will be more of the same. Some are wary and see the amount of government spending massing on the horizon and are preparing for a trove of tax law changes.

After all, we must repay the debt somehow, right? Are the tax strategies such as carried interest, tax-deferred exchanges, and long-term capital gains – which play into commercial real estate activity – in jeopardy? Many believe so. Others realize the massive lobby the real estate business leverages and are secure. Hopefully, any change will not be retroactive.

Allen C. Buchanan, SIOR, is a principal with Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Services in Orange. He can be reached at abuchanan@lee-associates.com or 714.564.7104.

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Who’s really at blame if the government defaults?

The battle over the federal debt ceiling that’s currently being fought by government officials and legislators is yet another example of the political posturing that’s so prevalent these days.

On one side, you have Democrats, who believe that the debt ceiling should be increased automatically or removed altogether, no matter what level of debt Uncle Sam accumulates, and that it should be done with the support of Republicans.

On the other side, you have Republicans, who occasionally remember that they are against big government spending, especially if they’re in the minority when the debt ceiling needs to be raised.

Consider Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, railing against Republicans for saying they won’t vote for a bill that funds the government until December and includes a debt ceiling suspension. He accuses them of wanting the federal government to shut down and to default on its debt.

Don’t fall for it. Yes, defaults are bad — which is why nobody wants that.

Thankfully, there’s a difference between refusing to raise the debt ceiling and defaulting on our debt. What’s more, as Brian Riedl of the Manhattan Institute reminds us, Democrats currently hold the White House, the House and the Senate, and they could have raised the debt ceiling all alone without the Republicans.

All they had to do, he writes, was to “include debt limit instructions in either of the two budget resolutions that they passed this year,” allowing them to increase “Washington’s borrowing authority to the reconciliation bills — which are not subject to filibuster and thus can pass the Senate with only the 50 Democratic votes.”

Yet they probably didn’t do that so their members wouldn’t have to cast a vote acknowledging all of the spending and borrowing they approved. But now they’re dragging Republicans into their mess, hoping to either get political cover for raising the debt ceiling or let the GOP get the blame for a government shutdown.

Incidentally, Republicans aren’t wrong to be outraged by the $3.5 trillion spending bill Democrats are pushing through reconciliation, most of it unpaid-for by those who will receive the benefits, piled on top of trillions of dollars for COVID-19-relief spending and an already vast deficit. Republicans argue that blocking this level of spending is another reason to oppose raising the debt ceiling.

Democrats correctly contend that there is a cost to not raising the debt ceiling immediately, though there’s also a cost to allowing this astronomical spending to go through. It’s just not as obvious because most of the costs will materialize in years to come. But it doesn’t make it any less immoral.

That’s why, back in 2011, I favored using the debt ceiling as a pressure point to extract some entitlement reforms. The political environment was completely different back then. Most Republicans seemed to be on board with the idea that some fiscal responsibility was prudent, and so were many Americans who made overspending a theme of the 2010 midterm elections.

However, the strategy failed when all we got were weak spending caps that Republicans and Democrats repeatedly lifted if they got in the way of their insatiable hunger for spending.

This is not an argument for giving up or getting rid of the debt ceiling limit. But it is an argument to remind readers that we wouldn’t be having these fights if it weren’t for the numerous expansions of the entitlement state (programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security) approved by past Congresses and administrations. These provisions are impacting us today and will continue to impact us into the future, so long as both sides refuse to implement reforms.

Democrats have long said they won’t do it. However, those Republicans complaining about President Joe Biden’s spending spree are part of the problem, too. Just look at what happened when Republicans were in power.

Former President George W. Bush oversaw the creation of Medicare Part D. Under former President Donald Trump, Republicans refused to touch Social Security and Medicare, and they embraced the creation of a federal paid leave program and the equivalent of a universal basic income for kids. There’s no denying that Republicans are part of our fiscal problem, too.

Raising the debt ceiling without a strong commitment to entitlement reform is irresponsible, but empty political gestures accomplish nothing, either.

Short of a massive burst of growth triggered by some future innovation, our only option is to convince the American people that more spending will ultimately come to bite them and their children in the behind.

There is no better time than the debt ceiling showdown for that.

Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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