Sunday, December 7, 2008

Paulson shoots another arrow into the heart of the Economy

Paulson shoots another arrow into the heart of the Economy

by Andrew Hughes

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The announcement in the last few days of a deal reached between the U.S. Treasury and the moribund insurance giant, A.I.G. provides a very lucid insight in to the nefarious and destructive world of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, otherwise known as T.A.R.P..Not only have A.I.G. received $152 billion to date and subsequently reported a third quarter loss of $25 billion, now they are to be cleared of their obligation on $53 billion worth of toxic credit default swaps. U.S. taxpayers are now on the hook for $205 billion courtesy of an institution which played in the Wall St. casino that passes for a "Financial Sector" and lost. Under the "Free market" system, so expounded upon by Government and Wall St. alike, A.I.G should be in chapter 11. Bailing out A.I.G and other failing institutions does absolutely nothing to address the fundamental issues at hand.

The economy is in crisis because unemployment and overarching debt levels pushed thousands of families in to the untenable situation where they did not earn enough to cover their debts. This burst the real estate bubble inflated by Alan Greenspan, crashed real estate prices, consumer spending and manufacturing. What we are seeing now is the inevitable result of lack of Financial regulation, lax monetary policy and a symbiosis between Government and the Financial industry. The mortgages taken out by buyers had been bundled into complex financial instruments; Mortgage backed securities. The latter along with Credit default swaps and derivatives set the stage for a global financial meltdown. The Glass-Steagal act of 1933 had been conceived to prevent the Banking sector from indulging in high risk investments to protect the depositors of these institutions. This was repealed at the end of the Clinton Administration through the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 which opened the gates to financial destruction. With the stroke of a pen, the financial services sector was given the power to literally bring down an economy

The most urgent matter for Treasury to address is the toxic derivatives market. The notional amount of outstanding derivatives, as noted by the Bank of International settlements, comes close to $512 trillion. This represents a figure that is impossible to settle and is the real Armageddon which Banks are preparing for by hoarding the cash that they have received through the T.A.R.P..Unless this time bomb is defused by bringing the undeclared positions on the table, the duration and gravity of this crisis can only increase. As the underlying assets of these instruments crumble the Banks' exposure to counterparty risk increases and will lead to the inevitable collapse of even more banks and reduce the availability of investment credit even more. The underlying assets include interest rates, mortgages, foreign exchange rates, credit ratings on companies and even creditworthiness of entire countries. This is the level of insanity that has passed for "Leveraged Investment"

With over $3 trillion of taxpayer money injected in to Banks, insurance companies, commercial paper, Fannie and Freddie what has come back to benefit the dying economy ? A reduction in lending, increased interest rates on credit card payments and further losses for these same institutions. No big surprise as the real economy has never stopped it's nosedive. Does the Treasury really not realise that there is no point in investing in companies that have no chance of redemption ? By handing over Americans' hard earned tax dollars and indebting future generations, the Treasury has been engaging in the biggest transfer of wealth in Human history. The U.S. is now the biggest debtor on the planet and the rest of the world has noticed. China, Japan and the Oil kingdoms that buy U.S. debt are losing faith and it's only a matter of time until they turn off the tap.

Five Blackwater Guards To Face Massacre Charges Next Week

Five Blackwater Guards To Face Massacre Charges Next Week

Guards Told to Surrender to the FBI by Monday on Manslaughter, Assault Counts


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Five Blackwater guards have been told to surrender to the FBI by Monday to face federal manslaughter and assault charges connected to the shooting deaths of 17 civilians at an traffic circle in Iraq last year, ABC News has learned.

Law enforcement officials say the grand jury hearing the case was in session Thursday in Washington, D.C. and was expected to have voted on the indictments.

The federal investigation revealed that two of the Blackwater guards did most of the shooting and are expected to face either murder or manslaughter charges, law enforcement officials said.

They identified the two as Dustin Heard, of Tennessee, a former Marine who joined Blackwater in 2004; and Paul Slough, of Texas, a former U.S. Army infantry soldier who joined Blackwater in 2006.

Also told to surrender to the FBI on Monday are: Donald Ball, a former Marine Corporal from West Valley City, Utah; Evan Liberty, a former Marine who guarded US Embassies in Egypt and Guatemala from Rochester, N.H.; Nick Slatten, a former Army sergeant from the 82 Airborne from Sparta, Tenn.

FBI agents and American prosecutors plan to travel to Baghdad next week to personally brief the families of victims about the indictments, according to the law enforcement officials.

Justice Department officials declined to comment on the ABC News report.

The bloody incident at Baghdad's Nisoor Square sparked widespread outrage in Iraq over what many considered trigger-happy American security guards who shot at civilians with impunity and no fear of consequences.

Weeks later, the Department of Justice publicly announced it had opened an investigation. Some of the defense lawyers say their clients, all former decorated members of the military in their 20's, are being used as scapegoats to quell anger at the U.S. in Iraq.

Blackwater maintained its guards fired in self-defense after coming under fire as they protected a diplomatic motorcade.

Civilians at the scene and relatives of the dead told U.S. investigators there was no hostile fire and the shootings were unprovoked.

Case Against Blackwater Guards Likely to Face Serious Legal Challenge

Prosecutors plan to charge the men under a law meant to cover soldiers and military contractors even though the Blackwater guards were in Iraq as part of a State Department security contract, according to lawyers briefed on the case.

As a result, the case is likely to face a serious challenge on technical legal grounds.

"I think a district judge would have really no choice but to dismiss the indictment," said noted military defense lawyer Gene Fidell, citing the fact the Blackwater contract was not with the military.

The jurisdiction "simply doesn't apply," Fidell said.

In a statement made the day after the September 2007 shooting, Slough told US State Department agents he opened fire on a car because "the driver looked directly at me and kept moving toward our motorcade. Fearing for my life and the lives of my teammates, I engaged the driver and stopped the threat."

U.S. investigators say the driver of the car was an unarmed civilian.

Heard, in his statement to agents, said he "heard gunshots" and "engaged the car with approximately 20 to 30 rounds from my M4 rifle."

Heard's attorney, David Schertler, said they strongly disagree with the decision to bring charges against Heard, which he characterized as "wrong and unjust."

Schertler said: "On September 16, 2007, at Nisour Square, Blackwater security guards were defending themselves and their comrades who were being shot at and receiving fire from Iraqis they believed to be enemy insurgents, in a place where the enemy has made a major city, Baghdad, the battlefield. Because of that and because of the deceptive tactics used by these insurgents against Americans, civilian casualties tragically occur. We have been and remain determined and prepared to fight these charges and we are confident that Dustin Heard will be vindicated."

Lawyers for the other Blackwater guards declined to comment. Blackwater says it has cooperated with the investigation and officials say no criminal charges are expected against the company itself.

Justices to Decide Legality of Indefinite Detention

Justices to Decide Legality of Indefinite Detention

Case of Qatari National, Held Without Formal Charges, Is Test of Executive Power Asserted by Bush

By Robert Barnes

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The Supreme Court said yesterday it will decide whether the president may order the indefinite detention of suspects living lawfully in the United States, one of the broadest claims of executive power the Bush administration has asserted in the nation's anti-terrorism efforts.

The court said it will review the case of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a Qatari national studying in Illinois when he was seized in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and held in a Navy brig for more than five years without formal charges.

The case will present President-elect Barack Obama with an immediate decision on whether to endorse President Bush's aggressive use of executive power or to strike a new path in how the country confronts those suspected of planning additional al-Qaeda attacks.

The Supreme Court has ruled against the Bush administration four times on cases that involve the assertion of executive power with limited judicial review. Most recently, the court ruled 5 to 4 that terrorism suspects held at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have the right to challenge their detention in federal court.

While Marri is the only person seized on U.S. soil and currently held as an enemy combatant -- the administration says he was part of a sleeper al-Qaeda cell intent on mass murder and disrupting the banking system -- the larger question of the president's powers might be the most significant the court has yet considered.

"The constitutional scope of the administration's unilateral detention powers," said Robert Chesney, a national security expert at the Wake Forest University law school, "is the question we've all been waiting for an answer to."

In a splintered decision this summer, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond ruled that the president had the power to detain Marri under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force enacted by Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks. But a separate majority also said Marri had the right to challenge his designation as an enemy combatant before a district court in South Carolina, where he is currently being held.

The Bush administration had urged the Supreme Court to allow that process to go forward before taking Marri's case.

But lawyers for Marri had urged the justices to take the case now, saying the administration's reading of the military force authorization is "clearly not what Congress intended," in the words of Marri's lawyer, Jonathan Hafetz of the American Civil Liberties Union.

"The president has deviated from the principles on which the United States and its Constitution were founded: that individuals cannot be imprisoned for suspected wrongdoing without being charged with a crime and tried before a jury," he said in a statement.

But Solicitor General Gregory G. Garre, in a brief to the court, said it was "absurd" to assert that the president was doing anything other than what Congress had given him power to do to prevent "another September 11."

"All signs point to the conclusion that Congress intended to authorize detention of al Qaeda agents who, like petitioner, come to this country to commit hostile or war-like acts," Garre wrote. "And a contrary conclusion would severely undermine the military's ability to protect the nation against further al Qaeda attack at home."

The court said it would consider whether the law authorizes -- and if so, whether the Constitution allows -- "the seizure and indefinite military detention of a person lawfully residing in the United States, without criminal charge or trial" based on government assertions of al-Qaeda contacts.

Marri was a graduate student in Peoria, Ill., when he was arrested in December 2001. He was charged a year later with lying to the FBI and using a false name and a stolen Social Security number to apply for bank accounts in Macomb, Ill., for a fictitious business.

But just before his trial in June 2003, Bush ordered the attorney general to turn him over to the military, and he has been held in isolation in the Navy brig in Charleston, S.C., since.

The government says Marri trained at an al-Qaeda camp and met Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheik Mohammed in the summer of 2001, and officials have said that the FBI came to think he was al-Qaeda's senior operative in the United States. A government affidavit filed with the court quoted a defense intelligence official saying that "Al-Marri offered to be an al Qaeda martyr."

Marri is the last of three designated enemy combatants held in the United States since 2001. His case is most similar to that of Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen originally accused of attempting to explode a radiological "dirty bomb" in the United States. Padilla was transferred to civilian custody to face terrorism charges before the Supreme Court could take up the issue of the military's power to detain him.

Al-Marri v. Pucciarelli probably will be heard in March, after Obama takes office with his new team at the Justice Department. Although Obama has strongly opposed Bush on the claims of executive power he has made in fighting terrorism, his views on Marri and enemy combatants held inside the country are unclear. Obama has promised to abolish military commissions underway at Guantanamo Bay and has said that accused terrorists should be tried in civilian courts or military courts-martial.

A spokeswoman for Obama's national security team yesterday declined to comment. "President-elect Obama will make decisions about how to handle detainees as president when his full national security and legal teams are in place. There is one president at a time, and we intend to respect that," Brooke Anderson said.

Obama's options include backing the administration's current position of broad detention authority. He -- or the Bush administration -- could also short-circuit the court's examination by attempting to charge Marri in federal court or by deporting him to his native country.

But Chesney, the law professor, said it was unclear whether the statements relied upon by the government to detain Marri would be admissible as evidence in federal court.

Obama also, of course, has the option of reversing the administration's interpretation of the law once he takes office.

A prominent group of former judges and Justice Department lawyers, along with retired military officers, filed briefs backing Marri's position. They include Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, who led the Army's first official investigation into abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The ruling supporting Bush is "a grave threat to the civil liberties of American citizens," said the brief submitted by the group, which also included former attorney general Janet Reno and former federal judge Abner Mikva, a longtime Obama mentor.

Additionally, liberal civil rights groups who have been hostile to Bush and friendly to Obama cheered the court's decision to take the case, and made it clear that they expect the Obama administration to see the policy differently.

"Conflicts like this one are among the best reasons to look forward to a new administration," said Kathryn Kolbert, president of the liberal People for the American Way.

Workers occupy Chicago factory! Give your support!

Workers occupy Chicago factory! Give your support!

By Jill White

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This afternoon more than 250 community activists, union leaders and others gathered in a rally in front of Republic Windows Factory on Chicago’s northwest side. They were voicing their solidarity with the workers who have refused to leave the factory in protest over the shutdown of the plant. Speakers included members of the Service Employees International Union; Teamsters; Chicago Teachers Union; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; and others.

In an interview following the rally, Armando Robles, President of UE Local 111, described the anger felt by the workers when they were told, with so little notice, that not only were they losing their jobs but that their insurance policies had been canceled and workers were not to receive vacation earned or severance pay.

Robles said that according to Illinois law, the company is required to give 75 days notice of a shutdown, or pay workers for 75 days. The company blames the Bank of America for not providing a line of credit to the company. But, according to Robles, management has been lying to the workers and the union about the status of company.

Following the vote to stage the sit-in, Robles described how the management tried to isolate reporters from the workers, but they blocked the door so the reporters could remain in the meeting.

Another worker, Silvia Magna, described how shocked and angry the workers were when they found out they were losing their jobs. She said they all work hard, and yet she only brings home $328 a week.

Many workers have been cut and lost fingers on the job. Magna said the workers are determined to stay in the plant until “we get what we worked for.” They blame both the owners and the bankers because the owners have not been honest with the workers.

Magna says they are fighting not only for themselves and their families, “but to be an inspiration to other workers to fight like we are. We are making history because people have not seen the workers fight from inside the plants.” She says the workers will do whatever is necessary and requested solidarity from people from the outside.

UE organizer Leah Fried said that if there is no satisfactory resolution at a meeting Dec. 8, and all else remains stable, the next solidarity action in Chicago will be held at noon Tuesday, Dec. 9, at Bank of America at 231 S. LaSalle. Fried said people should email and fax Bank of America demanding the workers receive their pay due. Chicago supporters are encouraged to come by and sign a solidarity banner that is posted in the plant lobby. Financial contributions should be sent to Local 111, UE Hall, 37 S. Ashland Ave., Chicago, IL 60607.

UE Members Occupy Chicago Plant in Struggle for Justice

UE Members Occupy Chicago Plant in Struggle for Justice

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National news networks CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS and Fox News, as well as Chicago news media, the New York Times, the Washington Post and other news outlets, are reporting on the following dramatic developments involving UE members in Chicago.

Members of UE Local 1110 who work at Republic Windows and Doors are occupying the plant around the clock this weekend, in an effort to force the company and its main creditor to meet their obligations to the workers. Their goal is to at least get the compensation that workers are owed; they also seek the resumption of operations at the plant. All 260 members of the local were laid off Friday in a sudden plant closing, brought on by Bank of America cutting off operating credit to the company. The bank even refused to authorize the release of money to Republic needed to pay workers their earned vacation pay, and compensation they are owed under the federal WARN Act because they were not given the legally-required notice that the plant was about to close.

Below are some links to ongoing news coverage of this story:,2933,463030,00.html,0,1928458.story

Bank of America, the country's second largest bank, has received $25 billion in taxpayer money as part of the $700 billion government bailout of the financial industry. The public was told that this bailout was necessary in order to keep credit flowing and prevent the loss of jobs. Yet the very-well-paid executives at Bank of America have actually cut off credit to Republic, forcing the closing of a plant where workers were, at least up until Friday, producing energy-efficient doors and windows.

Jobs with Justice, the national worker rights coalition, is asking people to sign an online letter to Bank of America, demanding that they provide the needed credit to keep Republic Windows and Doors open – or at a minimum, that they pay workers the money they are owed. Please go to this link to support this important struggle.

UE Local 1110 members, along with community supporters, picketed and rallied in front of Bank of America’s main Chicago branch on Wednesday, December 3. They chanted, “You got bailed out, we got sold out!” Local 1110 President Armando Robles told the news media, “Just weeks before Christmas we are told our factory will close in three days. Taxpayers gave Bank of America billions, and they turn around and close our company. We will fight for a bailout for workers.”

To support the members of Local 1110 in their courageous fight, send checks payable to the UE Local 1110 Solidarity Fund, to: UE, 37 S. Ashland, Chicago, IL 60607. Messages of support can be sent to For more information, call the UE Chicago office at 312-829-8300.

UE has already contacted Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, and will soon be in touch with Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), chair of the Senate Banking Committee, regarding Bank of America's apparent abuse of its public obligations under the federal banking bailout.

Workers Occupy Chicago Factory

Workers Occupy Chicago Factory! - Need Support!

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Yesterday, Friday December 5th, the workers of Republic Windows and Doors occupied their factory, which was due to close at 10:00 AM. The workers are fighting for pay for their lost vacation days and for the 75 days notice that they are guaranteed under Illinois law. This is the first time in many years workers have taken the bold, militant strategy of occupying their place of work to demand justice. The plan to occupy the plant until the hear the results of the next round of negotiations Monday afternoon. They need to know they have our support!

A prayer vigil has been planned for 12:00 Noon, Saturday December 6th. Please attend. But we should organize a constant presence of community members picketing outside the factory! Bring food and coffee for the workers. It is our presence and the press that is the workers best defense against the police raiding the factory.

These workers are fighting for all of us!!! As the economic crisis deepens we need to launch a working class fight back. These workers are the starting point and deserve our full support.

Go to:

Republic Windows & Doors 1333 N. Hickory

On Goose Island, near the intersection of Division & Clybourn

(Message written by Jerry Mead-Lucero,


UE Members in Chicago Occupy Plant in Struggle for Justice December 6, 2008

Chicago, IL

National television news networks CNN News and Fox are running reports on the following story involving the UE members in Chicago...

Members of UE Local 1110 who work at Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago have been forced to resort to drastic action to try to force their employer to meet its obligations to the workforce.

Several national news media outlets have covered this fast-developing story; several links are provided below. More news to follow as it becomes available...

Several Chicago television stations have covered the story also, and you will find these stories by visiting the web pages and local news sections of WGN and CBS2.


Idled workers occupy factory in Chicago

By RUPA SHENOY | Associated Press Writer

Chicago Tribune December 6, 2008


Workers who got three days' notice their factory was shutting its doors voted to occupy the building and say they won't go home without assurances they'll get severance and vacation pay they say they are owed.

In the second day of a sit-in on the factory floor Saturday, about 200 union workers occupied the building in shifts while union leaders outside criticized a Wall Street bailout they say is leaving laborers behind.

About 50 workers sat on pallets and chairs inside the Republic Windows and Doors plant. Leah Fried, an organizer with the United Electrical Workers, said the Chicago-based vinyl window manufacturer failed to give 60 days' notice required by law before shutting down.

During the takeover, workers have been shoveling snow and cleaning the building, Fried said.

"We're doing something we haven't since the 1930s, so we're trying to make it work," Fried said.

Organizers of the action said the company can't pay employees because its creditor, Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America, won't let them. Crain's Chicago Business reported that Republic Windows' monthly sales had fallen to $2.9 million from $4 million during the past month. In a memo to the union, obtained by the business journal, Republic CEO Rich Gillman said the company had "no choice but to shut our doors."

Bank of America received $25 billion from the government's financial bailout package.

"Across cultures, religions, union and nonunion, we all say this bailout was a shame," said Richard Berg, president of Teamsters Local 743. "If this bailout should go to anything, it should go to the workers of this country."

Outside the plant, protesters wore stickers and carried signs that said, "You got bailed out, we got sold out."

Larry Spivack, regional director for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31, said the peaceful action will add to Chicago's rich history in the labor movement, which includes the 1886 Haymarket affair, when Chicago laborers and anarchists gathering in a square on the city's west side drew national attention when an unidentified person threw a bomb at police.

"The history of workers is built on issues like this here today," Spivack said.

Representatives of Republic Windows did not immediately respond Saturday to calls and e-mails seeking comment.

Police spokeswoman Laura Kubiak said authorities were aware of the situation and officers were patrolling the area.

Workers were angered when company officials didn't show up for a meeting Friday that had been arranged by U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a Chicago Democrat, Fried said. Union officials said another meeting with the company is scheduled for Monday afternoon.

"We're going to stay here until we win justice," said Blanca Funes, 55, of Chicago, after occupying the building for several hours. Speaking in Spanish, Funes said she fears losing her home without the wages she feels she's owed. A 13-year employee of Republic, she estimated her family can make do for three months without her paycheck. Most of the factory's workers are Hispanic.

When a Job Disappears, So Does the Health Care

When a Job Disappears, So Does the Health Care

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As jobless numbers reach levels not seen in 25 years, another crisis is unfolding for millions of people who lost their health insurance along with their jobs, joining the ranks of the uninsured.

The crisis is on display here. Starla D. Darling, 27, was pregnant when she learned that her insurance coverage was about to end. She rushed to the hospital, took a medication to induce labor and then had an emergency Caesarean section, in the hope that her Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan would pay for the delivery.

Wendy R. Carter, 41, who recently lost her job and her health benefits, is struggling to pay $12,942 in bills for a partial hysterectomy at a local hospital. Her daughter, Betsy A. Carter, 19, has pain in her lower right jaw, where a wisdom tooth is growing in. But she has not seen a dentist because she has no health insurance.

Ms. Darling and Wendy Carter are among 275 people who worked at an Archway cookie factory here in north central Ohio. The company provided excellent health benefits. But the plant shut down abruptly this fall, leaving workers without coverage, like millions of people battered by the worst economic crisis since the Depression.

About 10.3 million Americans were unemployed in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of unemployed has increased by 2.8 million, or 36 percent, since January of this year, and by 4.3 million, or 71 percent, since January 2001.

Most people are covered through the workplace, so when they lose their jobs, they lose their health benefits. On average, for each jobless worker who has lost insurance, at least one child or spouse covered under the same policy has also lost protection, public health experts said.

Expanding access to health insurance, with federal subsidies, was a priority for President-elect Barack Obama and the new Democratic Congress. The increase in the ranks of the uninsured, including middle-class families with strong ties to the work force, adds urgency to their efforts.

“This shows why — no matter how bad the condition of the economy — we can’t delay pursuing comprehensive health care,” said Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio. “There are too many victims who are innocent of anything but working at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Some parts of the federal safety net are more responsive to economic distress. The number of people on food stamps set a record in September, with 31.6 million people receiving benefits, up by two million in one month.

Nearly 4.4 million people are receiving unemployment insurance benefits, an increase of 60 percent in the past year. But more than half of unemployed workers are not receiving help because they do not qualify or have exhausted their benefits.

About 1.7 million families receive cash under the main federal-state welfare program, little changed from a year earlier. Welfare serves about 4 of 10 eligible families and fewer than one in four poor children.

In a letter dated Oct. 3, Archway told workers that their jobs would be eliminated, and their insurance terminated on Oct. 6, because of “unforeseeable business circumstances.” The company, owned by a private equity firm based in Greenwich, Conn., filed a petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code.

Archway workers typically made $13 to $20 an hour. To save money in a tough economy, they are canceling appointments with doctors and dentists, putting off surgery, and going without prescription medicines for themselves and their children.

Archway cited “the challenging economic environment” as a reason for closing.

“We have been operating at a loss due largely to the significant increases in raw material costs, such as flour, butter, sugar and dairy, and the record high fuel costs across the country,” the company said.

At this time of year, the Archway plant would usually be bustling as employees worked overtime to make Christmas cookies. This year the plant is silent. The aromas of cinnamon and licorice are missing. More than 40 trailers sit in the parking lot with nothing to haul.

In the weeks before it filed for bankruptcy protection, Archway apparently fell behind in paying for its employee health plan. In its bankruptcy filing, Archway said it owed more than $700,000 to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, one of its largest creditors.

Richard D. Jackson, 53, was an oven operator at the bakery for 30 years. Mr. Jackson and his two daughters often used the Archway health plan to pay for doctor’s visits, imaging, surgery and medicines. Now that he has no insurance, he takes his Effexor antidepressant pills every other day, rather than daily, as prescribed.

Another former Archway employee, Jeffrey D. Austen, 50, said he had canceled shoulder surgery scheduled for Oct. 13 at the Cleveland Clinic because he had no way to pay for it.

“I had already lined up an orthopedic surgeon and an anesthesiologist,” Mr. Austen said.

In mid-October, Janet M. Esbenshade, 37, who had been a packer at the Archway plant, began to notice that her vision was blurred. “My eyes were burning, itching and watery,” Ms. Esbenshade said. “Pus was oozing out. If I had had insurance, I would have gone to an eye doctor right away.”

She waited two weeks. The infection became worse. She went to the hospital on Oct. 26. Doctors found that she had keratitis, a painful condition that she may have picked up from an old pair of contact lenses. They prescribed antibiotics, which have cleared up the infection.

Ms. Esbenshade has two daughters, ages 6 and 10, with asthma. She has explained to them why “we are not Christmas shopping this year — unless, by some miracle, Mommy goes back to work and gets a paycheck.”

She said she had told the girls, “I would rather you stay out of the hospital and take your medication than buy you a little toy right now because I think your health is more important.”

In some cases, people who are laid off can maintain their group health benefits under a federal law, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986, known as Cobra. But that is not an option for former Archway employees because their group health plan no longer exists. And they generally cannot afford to buy insurance on their own.

Wendy Carter’s case is typical. She receives $956 a month in unemployment benefits. Her monthly expenses include her share of the rent ($300), car payments ($300), auto insurance ($75), utilities ($220) and food ($260). That leaves nothing for health insurance.

Ms. Darling, who was pregnant when her insurance ran out, worked at Archway for eight years, and her father, Franklin J. Phillips, worked there for 24 years.

“When I heard that I was losing my insurance,” she said, “I was scared. I remember that the bill for my son’s delivery in 2005 was about $9,000, and I knew I would never be able to pay that by myself.”

So Ms. Darling asked her midwife to induce labor two days before her health insurance expired.

“I was determined that we were getting this baby out, and it was going to be paid for,” said Ms. Darling, who was interviewed at her home here as she cradled the infant in her arms.

As it turned out, the insurance company denied her claim, leaving Ms. Darling with more than $17,000 in medical bills.

The latest official estimate of the number of uninsured, from the Census Bureau, is for 2007, when the economy was in better condition. In that year, the bureau says, 45.7 million people, accounting for 15.3 percent of the population, were uninsured.

M. Harvey Brenner, a professor of public health at the University of North Texas and Johns Hopkins University, said that three decades of research had shown a correlation between the condition of the economy and human health, including life expectancy.

“In recessions, with declines in national income and increases in unemployment,” Mr. Brenner said, “you often see increases in mortality from heart disease, cancer, psychiatric illnesses and other conditions.”

The recession is also taking a toll on hospitals.

“We have seen a significant increase in patients seeking assistance paying their bills,” said Erin M. Al-Mehairi, a spokeswoman for Samaritan Hospital in Ashland. “We’ve had a 40 percent increase in charity care write-offs this year over the 2007 level of $2.7 million.”

In addition, people are using the hospital less. “We’ve seen a huge decrease in M.R.I.’s, CAT scans, stress tests, cardiac catheterization tests, knee and hip replacements and other elective surgery,” Ms. Al-Mehairi said.