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Daily Archives: September 25, 2019
Long live candidate Harris, Milwaukee’s US Transhumanist Party presidential hopeful – Milwaukee Record
Posted: September 25, 2019 at 11:48 am
If the election of Donald Trump has proven anything, its that anything is possible. Could a Milwaukee candidate, part of a fringe party thats main interest is prolonging human life expectancy, be our next President of the United States? Absolutely not, but the U.S. Transhumanist Party, a mix of ideas that include libertarianism and sci-fi sounding future tech, hopes their campaign will draw attention to their platform.
The U.S. Transhumanism Party was founded in 2014 by Zoltan Istvan, who ran as the partys first candidate in the 2016 election. Zoltans vision was a party that would advocate for significant life extension achieved through the process of science and technology so people could live for hundreds and thousands of years, eventually making a breakthrough where we would be able to live to the age of forrrrrevvvvvvver years old. Imagine limbs being replaced with robotic parts, cloned organs being swapped out like an oil change, and an external hard drive for your brain.
Milwaukees Kristan T. Harris is one of the nine candidates competing to be the partys nominee for presidential candidate. Harris says that besides eternal life, Transhumanists are also interested in genome biohacking, cryptocurrency, weather modification, and creating designer babies.
All of these issues will bring up questions of ethics, which Harris hopes will lead to a healthy debate amongst Transhumanists in discussions about who will have access to eternal life, and how far we will go with artificial intelligence.
What the U.S. Transhumanist Party does is bring awareness of a very autonomous and robotic future thats on its way, Harris says. Its trying to develop ideas about what were going to do about those scenarios before we get there.
Harris works for a tech company by day and bartends at The Salty Dog, a tavern in Cudahy (and his sort of unofficial headquarters), where hes known by regulars for his passion in creating the perfect Bloody Mary with infused vodkas. In his spare time, Harris has developed an online following as the passionate co-host of talk radio show The Rundown Live, and his own program American Intelligence Report. Hes covered everything from ancient aliens to secret societies and government corruption. Milwaukee Record reported how hed found alleged occult symbolism in Veterans Park. All this has led Harris to be labelled as a conspiracy theorist, a term he shrugs off.
I always thought the term conspiracy theorist was a thought-terminating clich. It prevents people from recognizing their own cognitive dissonance or recognizing logical fallacies and its been shown in history that the term has been used mostly to cover up things they dont want people to look into, Harris argues. If someone calls you a conspiracy theorist, then nothing you say should be considered relevant.
Before Harris hits the road to the White House to challenge Trump and whoever the Dems push through, he will have to outlive his eight USTP opponents, including San Franciscan cyberpunk Rachel Haywire, St. Louiss Jon Schattke (owner of Schattke Advanced Nuclear Engineering), and an extraterrestrial-human hybrid from Los Angeles named Vrillon. Not quite as crowded and eclectic as the Democratic lineup, but close.
Harris says hes gotten along well with his fellow Transhumanists for the most part, but in the past week he has developed a rivalry with Arizonas Johannon Ben Zion, who has an institute that focuses largely on left-libertarian and techno-optimist market solutions to contemporary problems. Harris says he got along with Candidate Zion until he decided to call me a technophobe cause I wanted to question ethics of Transhumanism and he says Ill ruin the party. The two candidates clashed on the ethics of designer babies and Harriss talk of naturally extending life. Thats the key word, I said naturally, then he said I was a technophobe, that I wasnt a Transhumanist. Harris challenged Zion to a one-on-one debate, which Zion declined.
Harris held his own in an online virtual debate on September 14 between five of the partys candidates, and is spending the rest of the week campaigning in preparation for September 21, when the USTP Electronic Presidential Primary opens online. Card-carrying (or e-mail-confirmed in this caseit takes about 10 seconds to join the party by filling out a simple form on their website) members who sign up by the 21st will have a week to vote for their representative for president.
If Harris doesnt seal his partys nomination, hell be able to try again in 2024. And if the Transhumanist agenda moves forward, hell also have a chance to run again in 3024, 4024whatever millennium seems like the right fit.
You can find Kristan T. Harriss Official U.S. Transhumanist Party candidate bio page HERE.
Posted: at 11:48 am
Irish author Mark OConnell has been awarded the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature 2019 at Trinity College Dublin this evening. He was presented with the prize for his debut To Be a Machine, an exploration of transhumanism. This is the first time the 10,000 award has been made for a work of nonfiction.
Announcing the 2019 winner, member of the prize jury Prof Michael Cronin said: In his book which takes a personal look at the transhumanist movement a movement which hopes through technology to enhance human capacities and eventually overcome human mortality Mark OConnell shows himself to be a writer of the first rank. His faultless characterisation, his deep interest in the humanity of his transhumanists, his engagingly precise but poetic style, his richly insightful observations on questions which are literally life and death issues, marked out him as a writer of unquestionable promise.
The prize is awarded for a body of work by emerging Irish writers that shows exceptional promise. The author joins the auspicious ranks of former winners such as Colin Barrett, Sara Baume, Anne Enright and Frank McGuinness among many others.
Being presented with the award in Trinity had a particular relevance for the Kilkenny-born author, who is a graduate of Trinity from where he obtained an undergraduate degree in English and Philosophy and a PhD in English.
OConnell said: Its a delight, and a real surprise, to be chosen as the winner of this years Rooney Prize for Irish literature. Its especially thrilling to be the first writer of non-fiction to be awarded the prize. Im deeply grateful to the prize committee and to the Rooney family for this wonderful honour.
OConnells book, To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death, was published by Granta in 2017. The Irish Times review called it brilliant A terrifying, fascinating and often funny insight into a brave new world.
OConnell, a books columnist for Slate and a staff writer at The Millions, won the prestigious 30,000 Wellcome Book Prize last year. It celebrates exceptional works that illuminate how health and medicine touch our lives. His next book, Notes from an Apocalypse: a personal journey to the end of the world and back, will be published by Granta next April. OConnell set out to meet the men and women preparing for the end of the world. In the remote mountains of Scotland, in high-tech bunkers in South Dakota and in the lush valleys of New Zealand, small groups of determined men and women are getting ready. They are environmentalists who fear the ravages of climate change; billionaire entrepreneurs dreaming of life on Mars; and right-wing conspiracists yearning for a lost American idyll. One thing unites them: their certainty that we are only years away from the end of civilization as we know it.
The prize benefactor, Dr Peter Rooney, said: I am delighted to see the award go to a writer of such original and fresh writing. The vision for it has always been to reward new talent and Mark is most deserving of this years award.
The prize was set up by his uncle, the former US ambassador to Ireland and President Emeritus of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dan Rooney who died two years ago. The Rooney Prize for Irish Literature is administered by the Oscar Wilde Centre for Irish Writing at the School of English at Trinity.
Mark OConnell interview with Patrick Freyne
Why Silicon Valley billionaires are prepping for the apocalypse in New Zealand
Speech by Prof Michael Cronin on behalf of the prize juryAscending Errisbeg Hill in Co Galway, the cartographer and essayist Tim Robinson reflects on the dual perspectives of climbing: Any hill suggests a progression from close-up observations of what is immediately under the climbers hands and feet, through rests for breath-catching and retrospection and glances ahead at intermediate delusive skylines that hide the ultimate goal, to the triumphal horizon-sweeping outlook from the summit.
Judges of literary prizes often feel like Robinsons hill climbers. Gazing intently at the book currently under review and then moving swiftly on to the next, always hoping for that moment when they can finally reach the the triumphal horizon-sweeping outlook from the summit and decide on a winner.
This was my first year on the prize jury and I was deeply impressed by the thoroughness, the scrupulousness, the openness of my fellow judges as they gave equal consideration to the works submitted for consideration. From the slimmest volume of poetry to the door-stopping brick of prose, all of the books were objects of the same generous, free-ranging spirit of enquiry and sympathetic analysis.
What became quickly apparent as we hauled our bulging plastic bags and overstuffed tote bags to the Oscar Wilde Centre in Westland Row was the extraordinary vitality of the contemporary writing scene in Ireland. We found writers who were deeply committed to their craft, constantly alert to the news from elsewhere and who were not afraid to experiment with new forms or ideas.
What makes the Rooney Prize such a valuable and distinctive prize in the Irish literary landscape is its commitment to recognise emergence and promise. It is a prize which does not have to labour under the shadow of established reputation but can reward originality, freshness and distinctness. As even the most cursory look at the list of previous prizewinners will show, the writers have again and again delivered on this promise.
What is exciting for the prize jury is that each time you have a blank slate, complete freedom to recognise promise, whatever its source, whatever its form. But you do eventually have to get to the top of that hill and when we did we were unanimous in our choice. Surveying that rich landscape of writing there was one book that stood out for its boldness, its vivacity and its craft. The winner of the 2019 Rooney Prize for Literature is Mark OConnell for To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death (Granta, 2017).
In awarding the prize to Mark OConnell the jury was mindful of the need to extend the concept of literature to take in all forms of writing that pay particular attention to the quality and reach of language.
In his book which takes a personal look at the transhumanist movement a movement which hopes through technology to enhance human capacities and eventually overcome human mortality Mark OConnell shows himself to be a writer of the first rank. His faultless characterisation, his deep interest in the humanity of his transhumanists, his engagingly precise but poetic style, his richly insightful observations on questions which are literally life and death issues, marked out him as a writer of unquestionable promise.
He is also corrosively funny. Never mocking or disrespectful of his subjects, he has a dry, teasing wit which makes irony the subtlest of devices in his repertoire as when he describes a futurist at a meeting in London, fumbling and dropping a pistachio nut down the neck of his shirt open to the ideally entrepreneurial three-to-four buttons or how one transhumanist, went by the name T.O. Morrow, but since the late 1990s he has reverted to the less hurtlingly dynamic Tom W. Bell.
Towards the end of the book, he gives an account of a journey on board the Immortality Bus with a transhumanist and American Presidential hopeful Zoltan Istvan. There is a comic brilliance in his evocation of the mechanically challenged Zoltan accompanied by his acolyte Roen who believed that dying was so mainstream as they make their way across Texas in a forty-three foot recreational vehicle in the shape of a giant coffin.
In awarding the prize to Mark OConnell, the jury is also mindful of the richness of emerging forms of writing in Ireland that blend the personal, the factual and the reflective. Emilie Pine, Ian Maleney, Kevin Breathnach, Sinad Gleeson are just some of the names that could be mentioned in this context. They demonstrate a continued desire to explore the varied potentials of writing and see how emerging voices can offer new perspectives on questions, both contemporary and ancient.
There is no theme, of course, more central to human engagement with art than the human attempt to come to terms with mortality, which is one of the main preoccupations of To Be a Machine.
We would like to thank all the publishers who submitted works for consideration and to the School of English in Trinity College Dublin and the Oscar Wilde Centre for Irish Writing for their administrative support. On behalf of my fellow judges I would also like to thank Jonathan Williams who was such a capable and supportive organising presence throughout the judging process. Once again, we would like to commend Mark OConnell on his exemplary commitment to the art of writing and we feel that his promise as an emerging literary talent makes him a most worthy winner of the 2019 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. Congratulations.Members of the prize jury are: Jonathan Williams, Dr Rosie Lavan, Carlo Gebler, Riana ODwyer, Eilan N Chuileanin and Professor Michael Cronin, Professor of French & Director of the Trinity Centre for Literary and Cultural Translation at Trinity College Dublin
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Posted: at 11:48 am
Author Mark O'Connell has been announced as the winner of this year'sRooney Prize for Irish Literature, for his book To Be a Machine -the first time the 10,000 award has been made for a work of nonfiction.
Announcing the 2019 winner at Trinity College, Dublin, on Monday night, prize jury member Prof Michael Cronin said: "In his book which takes a personal look at the transhumanist movement a movement which hopes through technology to enhance human capacities and eventually overcome human mortality Mark O'Connell shows himself to be a writer of the first rank. His faultless characterisation, his deep interest in the humanity of his transhumanists, his engagingly precise but poetic style, his richly insightful observations on questions which are literally life and death issues, marked out him as a writer of unquestionable promise."
Mark O'Connell, winner of the 2019 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, talks to RT Arena
Subtitled Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death,To Be a Machinewas published by Granta in 2017. The bookexplores the philosophical and scientific roots of transhumanism; a movement that believes we can and should use technology to control the future evolution of our species. The book won the prestigious 30,000 Wellcome Book Prize in 2018.
"It's a delight, and a real surprise, to be chosen as the winner of this years Rooney Prize for Irish literature," says Mark O'Connell."Its especially thrilling to be the first writer of non-fiction to be awarded the prize. Im deeply grateful to the prize committee and to the Rooney family for this wonderful honour."
The Rooney Prize for Irish Literature was established by former US ambassador to Ireland and President Emeritus of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the late Dan Rooney, andis administered by the Oscar Wilde Centre for Irish Writing at the School of English at Trinity. The prize is awarded for a body of work by an emerging Irish writer that shows exceptional promise - previous winners include Kevin Barry, Colin Barrett,Doireann N Ghrofa, Sara Baume and Anne Enright, among many others.
Posted: at 11:48 am
Yale computer scientist David Gelernters recent confession in theClaremont Review of Books, rejecting Darwinism, continues to pick up notices from the most interesting writers out there. The economist and philosopher David Goldman, aka Spengler, notes it in an essay, Pseudo-science, the Bible and human freedom.
Goldman points out that even as the popularity of scientific determinism has jumped, the limits of scientific arguments for a purely material basis to reality have become ever clearer. Materialists assume that physics and biology make their case for them, yet physics has lost its ability to make grand statements about the nature of reality, and biology hasnt fared any better.
The evidence for unguided evolution, a central pillar for any materialist ethos, doesnt add up:
The new science of DNA proves mathematically that the odds of a random mutation leading to an improvement in the adaptability of a living organism are effectively zero, Gelernter shows. Even a small protein molecule has a chain of 150 amino acids. If we rearrange them at random we mostly obtain gibberish. In fact, of all 150-link amino acid sequences, 1 in 1074 will be capable of folding into a stable protein. To say that your chances are 1 in 1074 is no different, in practice, from saying that they are zero. Its not surprising that your chances of hitting a stable protein that performs some useful function, and might therefore play a part in evolution, are even smaller, Gelernter explains. That is Establishment science, not the murmurings of the Creationist fringe.
In short, the evolutionary biologists cant explain how animal life made the great leap from protozoans to arthropods in the Cambrian Explosion, let alone how natural selection through random mutation might have shaped the human mind. Biologists do brilliant and important research, to be sure, and the profession should not be blamed for the exaggerated claims made by a few publicists like [Yuval] Harari or Harvards Steven Pinker.
So then, against the backdrop of materialist sciences failure, what accounts for the rise of modern determinist mythologies, led by astrology and transhumanism, that have captured the imagination of Generation X and Silicon Valley? Read Goldmans article, but Ill try to summarize: Behind the phenomenon is a resurgent paganism, with its shamans like Yuval Harari, this strange little vegan who spends two hours a day in meditation, exciting the tech elite because he visualizes them as a new class of demigods, and with its repellant, narcissistic moral perspective: The New Atheism turns out to be the old idolatry packaged into a smartphone app.
The choices before modern man are not so different from the choices that faced ancient man. In fact, underneath the wrappings of contemporary life, theyre almost exactly the same. Goldman dismisses nave proofs for God. The theist today makes a boldcommitment just as the atheist does in his own way: the premise of biblical religion requires a leap of faith no greater than that of the atheists. Its consequence is the birth of human freedom, by making human beings free moral agents. The consequences of the old idolatry as well as the new paganism, by contrast, are repugnant.
The book of Psalms advises, taste and see that the Lord is good. That the new paganism is not good, but twisted and terrible, is also a matter to be tasted and seen. See Michael Egnors powerful reflections from earlier today, Jeffrey Epstein and the Silence of the Scientists. Can anyone who experiences our world, and follows its news, really doubt this?
Photo: David P. Goldman, by Elekes Andor [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
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Posted: at 11:48 am
A place to contemplate loss and recovery.
This summer was framed by my mothers illness and death. The cancer diagnosis came in late June. By early August, she was a hospice patient in the Queens apartment she lived in and where Id grown up. Several weeks before she passed away, I took a break from my daily visits to spend a day and night visiting a friend with my wife and son in Sea Bright, near the northern end of the Jersey Shore. You can easily see Manhattan from the beach there, with Long Island stretching off toward the horizon.
The Jersey Shore is a place of loss and recovery. Our friends house is on stilts, renovated after the flooding of Hurricane Sandy. The Shores on the edge of my personal history; Ive visited it perhaps 15 to 20 times over several decades but never stayed long, a native New Yorker and then northern New Jersey resident who went to the Shore because other people had houses there or wanted to go. Two women friends I associate with Shore trips died before their time.
My friend Chris Tufaro is putting together a folk rock album called Monmouth, the title the name of the town just south of Sea Bright and also of the county. His acoustic ballads tell an intertwined story relating to the destruction Sandy wrought on his familys house on the Shore. His music is suffused with coming to grips with loss.
My mother had a longstanding interest in the paranormal. She left behind hundreds of books on the subject (for which Id be interested in finding a suitable collector) and expressed a desire to make contact from beyond. I plan to visit a paranormal bookstore/museum in Asbury Park that holds seances. I mentioned this place to my mother, so shed know I dont dismiss her wish, and in case that helps her find me.
On the beach at Sea Bright, I read an advance copy of Artificial You: AI and the Future of Your Mind, by philosopher and cognitive scientist Susan Schneider. She offers a skeptical take on the type of immortality hoped for by some enthusiasts of high-tech transhumanism: ones mind being uploaded into a computer. She points out philosophical uncertainties as to whether such a transfer would be an extension of your life or the end of it. She advocates metaphysical humility, a recognition of how little we know about human consciousness and identity.
That sounds like a good approach to me. On the Jersey Shore, which has been battered by forces beyond human control and will be again, its good to remember we dont have a handle on everything.
Kenneth Silber is author ofIn DeWitts Footsteps: Seeing History on the Erie Canaland is on Twitter:@kennethsilber
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Posted: at 11:46 am
PG&E and its shareholders are facing a serious challenge to their control of the companys high-stakes bankruptcy.
Two factions have formed in the proceedings, and each group has introduced a plan to steer the California utility out of bankruptcy. On one side is PG&E (ticker: PCG) and its shareholders, along with wildfire insurance claimants, a group that includes insurers and hedge funds. On the other is PG&Es bondholders and wildfire victims.
The latter group didnt announce itself until late last week. A consortium of bondholders and wildfire victims is seeking permission to introduce a reorganization plan to compete with PG&Es. The judge overseeing the bankruptcy proceedings will hold a hearing on that request on Oct. 8, court filings show, and a status conference on Jan. 24.
Bondholders and wildfire victims included a restructuring plan in their initial filing, and provided more detail in investor commitment letters filed on Monday. Their proposal provides far worse terms for shareholders than the plan PG&E (and its shareholders) filed on Sept. 9.
To review: PG&Es plan would raise $14 billion with some form of equity issuance, and $7 billion from new debt. The equity could be issued through a rights offering in some circumstances, which would limit the dilution of existing shareholders current stakes. But the utility also reserves the right to sell shares through methods such as at-the-market offerings, which have been used by some companies that arent seen as especially friendly to shareholders.
Whats most important in PG&Es proposal, however, is the $18.9 billion cap on wildfire paymentsat least, any payments financed with new equity or debt. For any costs above that cap, the utility would need to charge its customers more, or issue electricity-rate-backed bonds. Either action would need to be approved by its regulator, the California Public Utilities Commission or CPUC.
That cap matters because the company agreed last week to settle most wildfire insurance claims for $11 billion. The most recent public data show that 44% of PG&Es insurance claims were held by hedge funds, with the rest held by insurers. Altogether, the hedge funds and insurance companies also owned 34.1 million of the utilitys shares, or 6.4% of the companys outstanding stock.
Simple arithmetic shows that wildfire victims would get just $7.9 billion of the new money if the cap remains at $18.9 billion. When asked about the way it would allocate funds between the two groups of wildfire claimants (victims and insurers), PG&E said that the details of its reorganization plan would likely change over time.
We remain committed to working with the individual plaintiffs to fairly and reasonably resolve their claims and will continue to work to do so, the company said in a statement. Our progress toward a final [reorganization plan] is iterative.
Even so, the utilitys proposal seems to have alienated wildfire victims, who have joined with bondholders to write an opposing plan. The bondholders, such as Pimco and Elliott Management, were rebuffed in an earlier attempt to propose a restructuring plan. But that was before they had the wildfire victims as co-authors.
The new coalition has also won support from the Utility Reform Network, a ratepayer advocacy group that raised questions about the feasibility of PG&Es plan in a Sept. 19 filing.
The bondholders new plan creates a trust to hold $24 billion on behalf of wildfire victims and insurance claim holders. Half of that sum would be in cash, and the other would be shares, or a roughly 39.5% stake in the new company (on a fully diluted basis). Wildfire victims would also have the authority to choose the trusts overseers.
Under their plan, bondholders would commit to buy $13.5 billion of new debt and $14.9 billion of new equity, or a roughly 58.8% stake in the new company (fully diluted). Nearly $8 billion of that debt would be secured by a mortgage on all principal property of PG&E, according to the filing. The utility didnt have any secured debt outstanding before it filed for bankruptcy.
Unsurprisingly, the plan leaves bondholders and wildfire victims with the largest stakes in the company. Existing shareholders would get the opportunity to buy a 2.9% stake in the company, or $744 million of new shares.
Bondholders and wildfire victims would also replace the companys nine-member board, allotting one seat to the companys employees, one seat to a ratepayer advocacy group, and one seat to the state wildfire fund.
They would also agree to oppose any attempt to municipalize any part of the business, meaning sell its infrastructure to a local government so the municipality could run its own electrical utility. That is seen partly as a concession to organized labor, because breaking up the company could also break up the companys employee union.
That group has already reported a larger pool of capital willing to backstop the sale of new equity and debt than the shareholders have. They have commitments from 12 investment firms for all $28.4 billion of new-money investment.
On the shareholders side, Knighthead Capital and Abrams Capital have agreed to backstop the plan with $1.5 billion of financing. The company said in a Monday news release that it had received at least $14 billion in aggregate equity commitments from a broad array of investors, including current shareholders, bondholders and parties not currently invested in the Companys equity or debt securities, but hasnt filed additional commitment letters yet.
Write to Alexandra Scaggs at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted: at 11:46 am
Oilfield service company Weatherford International moved forward with the second phase of its bankruptcy proceedings filing in Ireland.
The company, which is incorporated in Ireland but has a large presence in Houston, filed for a type of bankruptcy protection known as a "scheme of arrangement" before an Irish court on Monday.
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Under Irish law, the filing triggers a 100-day protection period from creditors while a judge reviews the company's reorganization plan.
In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Weatherford stated that the companywill continue normal operations while the Irish case remains pending. The company stated in the filing that it expects the scheme of arrangement in Ireland to mirror an approved Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan filed in the United States.
Service Sector: Bankruptcy judge accepts Weatherford reorganization plan
A bankruptcy judge in Houston issued a Sept. 11 order accepting Weatherford's Chapter 11 reorganization plan in the United States.
The U.S. plan gives the struggling oilfield service company access to $600 million in credit and the ability to issue $1.6 billion of notes that will be used to pay down debt.
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With roots going back to 1941, Weatherford had grown to become the nation's fourth-largest oil field services company but racked up $10 billion in debt along the way.
Headquartered in Switzerland but with its principal offices in Houston, the struggling oilfield service company has not made a profit since the third quarter of 2014.
With a bleak outlook for demand during the rest of 2019, Weatherford has been supplementing its operations with cash from investing and financing activities.
Read the latest oil and gas news from HoustonChronicle.com
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Posted: at 11:46 am
Wednesday, September 25, 2019
On September 11, 2019, Hollister Construction Services, LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the District of NJ, Trenton Vicinage. The Parsippany-based construction company deals in general construction work, including ground-up construction services, interior and exterior renovations, and building additions.
When a developer such as Hollister files for bankruptcy the business and financial consequences do not stop with the filing company. Instead, dozens of other businesses and individuals involved in any given construction project become caught in a web of complex laws and regulations that often result in substantial delays and subcontractors not being paid in accordance with their contracts.
Despite these frustrations, it may not be a good idea for a design professional, consultant, or subcontractor working under contract for a corporation that has filed for bankruptcy to pack up their equipment and leave the job site. This is because most construction contracts between general and subcontractors are executory in nature. This generally means they are able to be revived by the bankrupt entity.
Bankruptcy is governed by federal law and its principal goal is to treat all similarly situated creditors equally while also avoiding a race to the courthouse among creditors who have not been paid for their work. In order to participate in any potential distribution of proceeds from the bankruptcy entitys estate, a creditor must file a proof of claim by a date specified by the bankruptcy court. The claim represents a pre-petition debt owed by the debtor to the creditor and can include contingent contractual damage claims such as damages for delays on an uncompleted project.
In a construction context, subcontractors often obtain secured claims by filing a lien against a project prior to the project owner or developer filing for bankruptcy. These claims are first in line to be paid by the bankruptcy estate. Priority claims are next in the line of distribution. These claims can be for unpaid wages and benefits as well as consumer deposits. Finally, general unsecured claims are paid last and can be for any debt such as unpaid fees for professional services or a debt owed to a supplier of materials.
A bankruptcy filed by a construction company creates numerous complex problems from the standpoint of subcontractors, materialmen, and designers due to the vast number of entities involved in a single construction project and their interconnected nature. In the case of Hollister, according to its bankruptcy petition, it has between 200 and 999 creditors with $100 million to $500 million in assets and $100 million to $500 million in liabilities. The company also has approximately 94 employees. With a construction company as large as this, it is highly recommended that any potential creditor seek the advice of experienced legal counsel before stopping work or attempting to collect on a contractual debt. An unexperienced creditor may run afoul of bankruptcy statutes when trying to collect on its debt, which could result in that debt going unpaid.
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Posted: at 11:46 am
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester was the first in New York to seek bankruptcy protection under the financial weight of new sexual misconduct lawsuits, but lawyers and church leaders say it may not be the last. The state's eight Roman Catholic dioceses are facing financial pressures as a result of the state's new Child Victims Act.
The Child Victims Act temporarily sets aside the usual statute of limitations for lawsuits to give victims of childhood sexual abuse a year to pursue even decades-old claims. More than 400 cases have been brought against the dioceses since Aug. 14, when the law's one-year "look back" period for such suits began.
Representatives from the dioceses of Buffalo, Rockville Centre, Albany and Ogdensburg told The Associated Press they haven't decided as they consult with legal, financial and insurance experts. When the Rochester diocese filed for bankruptcy on Sept. 12, it estimated assets as low as $50 million but financial liabilities as great as $500 million, according to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle newspaper.
"While we evaluate our options, filing for bankruptcy protection remains one of those options," said Darcy Fargo, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Ogdensburg, which covers the rural, northernmost tip of the state.
Buffalo Bishop Richard Malone has said he is close to deciding whether to file for bankruptcy protection or litigate the nearly 140 new lawsuits his diocese is facing.
The Diocese of Albany, meanwhile, faces more than 30 lawsuits so far, but spokeswoman Mary DeTurris Poust said the diocese won't make any decision until "the full financial scope" of the Child Victims Act is known.
Filing for bankruptcy doesn't mean a diocese will close churches, but it offers a chance for financial reorganization. It could also shield the Rochester diocese from some financial claims, the Democrat & Chronicle added, with Rochester Bishop Salvatore Matano saying that the legal claims could "exceed our resources."
The Diocese of Rochester sought bankruptcy court protection Sept. 12 because of the new wave of lawsuits, becoming the 20th Roman Catholic diocese to do so nationwide in a sexual abuse reckoning that has now stretched on for 17 years.
Bankruptcy proceedings don't immunize dioceses from lawsuits, but they put claims under the supervision of a federal bankruptcy judge and require victims to get in line with all other potential church creditors. Plaintiffs' attorneys say proceedings also can limit their access to records exposing additional wrongdoing by priests or senior church officials who failed to act against suspected abusers.
With New York's window for lawsuits open until next August, attorney Michael Pfau, who has represented abuse victims in church bankruptcies outside New York, said additional bankruptcies are likely.
Such filings are usually met with distrust by claimants, Pfau said, but can have positive results.
"Bankruptcy in the context of the Catholic Church is a misunderstood thing, in that this isn't a liquidation, it's a reorganization," Pfau said. "The Catholic Church in Rochester will continue. Its mission won't be affected. It won't sell churches and schools and a hospital, but it will be a painful process for them, a self-inflicted painful process."
The Rochester diocese's bankruptcy filing outraged the Senate sponsor of the Child Victims Act, Brad Hoylman, who said victims he has spoken to are motivated more by a sense of justice than money. A silver lining, he said, is that any diocese that seeks bankruptcy protection will see its assets scrutinized.
"It will lead to an accounting of the wealth of these institutions," he said.
Rochester's bishop, Salvatore Matano, called the decision to file for bankruptcy painful but said it was the best way to ensure all victims would be compensated.
"Had the diocese not filed under Chapter 11, it would face multiple civil actions, a slow, unpredictable and costly process that would require years of court involvement," he said, "and those claimants who filed suits first would receive all available funds to pay victims. As a result, later claimants would receive nothing."
Two New York dioceses that are among the largest in the U.S., the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn, as well as the Diocese of Syracuse, said they didn't anticipate having to file for bankruptcy.
Several dioceses in the state attempted to head off lawsuits in recent years by establishing independently run compensation programs that paid out tens of millions of dollars to victims, on the condition that they gave up their right to sue.
Insurers have covered a large portion of settlements reached in previous diocesan bankruptcy cases, a 2018 study by Penn State professor Marie Reilly found, with victims receiving an average award of $371,500.
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Posted: at 11:46 am
Yesterday, hundreds of thousands of travelers around the globe found out that they were potentially stranded when Thomas Cook, one of the largest and oldest travel agencies and charter airlines in the world abruptly announced it was bankrupt. The firm immediately began liquidating assets and laid off its 22,000 employees. The event has put the British government on the hook for bringing 150,000 of its citizens home, the largest repatriation effort by the country since World War II.
Patrick Collinson at the Guardian reports that the 178-year-old travel company has experienced financial troubles for the past decade after merging with another travel group called MyTravel. Cook absorbed that companys substantial debts while at the same time contending with increasingly competitive online travel hubs. That, plus a decline in bookings following Brexit uncertainty, all led up to the situation on Monday. When the company was denied a $250 million loan from private investors to stay afloat, it led to the immediate dissolution of the company.
Ben Perry at AFP reports that the bankruptcy has forced the government to step in. In a project dubbed Operation Matterhorn, the U.K. government and Civil Aviation Authority are lining up private flights to bring people home. All customers currently abroad with Thomas Cook who are booked to return to the UK over the next two weeks will be brought home as close as possible to their booked return date, the government wrote in a statement. It's not clear what, if any, type of arrangements are being made for non-U.K. travelers.
Any future travel plans arranged through Thomas Cook are canceled and customers will be refunded, mainly through government-back insurance, as Ceylan Yeginsu and Michael Wolgelenter at The New York Times report. The insurance will also reimburse hotels for customer stays, but some resorts dont appear to have been made aware of that. Nightmare scenarios from people currently on vacation are slowly coming to light. Ian Westbrook at the BBC reports that all guests booked through Thomas Cook in one hotel in Spain had been locked out of their rooms and forced to pay out of pocket if they wanted to get back in. Several couples of elderly people were reported sleeping on couches in the hotel lobby. Molly Olmstead at Slate reports that up to 50,000 people are currently stuck on various Greek islands.
The New York Times reports that the shuttering of the company could have major impacts on certain destinations that rely heavily on Cooks travel packages. The island of Crete, for example, receives 400,000 visitors booked by Cook annually. The Canary Islands receives about 3.2 to 3.6 million visitors via Cook charter flights each year.
Thomas Cook was started back in 1841 by cabinet maker Thomas Cook of Leicestershire, a supporter of the temperance movement. At that time, he arranged for a special train to carry supporters 12 miles to a temperance rally. As CNN reports, Cook continued to organize trips to temperance events and Sunday schools until 1845 when he organized his first commercial trip to Liverpool, complete with a travel guide for the event.
From there, things snowballed, and a decade later Cook was organizing trips to visit continental Europe, the United States and Egypt. In 1872, the company, continued by Cook's son, even put together the first round-the-world tour. Over time, it became the largest tour operator in Britain. It was considered so important that, after World War II almost bankrupted it, the tour agency was nationalized from 1948 to 1972.
When the company asked the government for a bailout this time around, the Boris Johnson administration said no. The New York Times reports that U.K. transportation secretary Grant Shapps pointed out that the company was billions of dollars in debt, and that a short-term bailout would not have saved it in the long run.
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