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Archive for September 17th, 2014

Saudis Lobbied McCain, Graham to Sell War

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 17th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Saudis Lobbied McCain, Graham to Sell War
Daily Kos: Osama Bin Laden said he intentionally goaded America in to a war in the middle east to “bleed America to the point of bankruptcy.” Well, as it turns out, ISIS and Saudi Arabia are trying to goad America into another war in the middle east and they’ve enlisted John McCain and Lindsey Graham to sell us that war. An August 2013 the Wall Street Journal reports that Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Policy includes overthrowing Syrian government, which is Shiite, to put in place their own Sunni government so they, Saudis, can ultimately control Damascus.

Houston Store Clerk Kills Robber
The 20-year-old son of a convenience store worker turned the tables on a shotgun-wielding robber, shooting and killing the man during an attempted holdup Friday night in Houston. “He was saying, ‘Give me all of your money or I will kill you all,” said Usman Seth. “I was worried about my sister and my dad’s lives. That was the main thing on my mind, I got to save them.” The robber, who has not been identified, had been in the store 30 minutes earlier. Usman Seth’s father, who has the same name, said the robber’s brother came into the store and vowed to get revenge. “We are continuously getting threats from them,” the older Usman Seth said, according to other press reports.


US scientist: Ebola unlikely to become airborne

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 17th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

US scientist: Ebola unlikely to become airborne
WASHINGTON (AP) — A top government scientist says it’s very unlikely that Ebola would mutate to spread through the air.


Chris Christie’s dilemma: back Andrew Cuomo or his GOP challenger?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 17th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Chris Christie’s dilemma: back Andrew Cuomo or his GOP challenger?
The New Jersey Republican governor works closely with New York’s Cuomo but also runs the group charged with electing Republican governors

“No welfare for weed” bill passes in the House
Bill would bar people from using welfare debit cards from at stores that sell marijuana or from withdrawing cash from ATMs at those stores

Nationals vs. Orioles? Harry Reid hoping for a Beltway battle World Series
The Senate majority leader celebrated Nevada natives who helped the Washington Nationals clinch the MLB National League East title.


Fox Host Baselessly Escalates Latest Benghazi Conspiracy Theory: Iran-Contra Edition

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 17th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Fox Host Baselessly Escalates Latest Benghazi Conspiracy Theory: Iran-Contra Edition

Iran-Contra

Fox News’ embellishments of discredited journalist Sharyl Attkisson’s latest Benghazi conspiracy theory have become increasingly detached from reality, most recently morphing into absurd allegations that Hillary Clinton supporters “scrubbed” documents to hide evidence of a supposed State Department effort to funnel weapons to the Islamic State militants in a “mini-Iran Contra” scenario, or, as Fox puts it, “the holy grail” of scandals.

After Attkisson highlighted disgruntled former State Department employee Raymond Maxwell’s speculating (he “couldn’t help but wonder“) that State Department staff “scrubbed” damaging Benghazi documents before the initial investigation, it took just hours for Fox’s coverage of the claims to morph from reiteration into full-blown allegations that Hillary Clinton’s office had facilitated the destruction of key documents in violation of federal law.

Fox’s own Bill O’Reilly raised doubts about whether Attkisson’s story constituted a scandal, but Fox’s morning show kept the conspiracy drumbeat alive on September 17 edition of Fox & Friends, escalating the speculative claims to even greater heights. Co-host Brian Kilmeade and Fox News contributor Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer speculated that the allegedly removed documents would prove that the State Department enabled an Iran-Contra-like scenario by facilitating the transfer of weapons to Islamic State militants. Insisting that “all roads lead to principal officers,” Shaffer imagined that the supposed documents may hide a “direct link” to what he called a “holy grail” of Benghazi allegations, and Kilmeade concluded that “this is almost like a mini Iran-Contra thing”:


Obama’s Self-Defeating Fight

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 17th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Obama’s Self-Defeating Fight
Caroline Glick, RealClearPolitics
The United States has a problem with Islamic State. Its problem is that it refuses to acknowledge why Islamic State is a problem. The problem with Islamic State is not that it is brutal. Plenty of regimes are brutal. Islamic State poses two challenges for the US. First, unlike the Saudis and even the Iranians, IS actively recruits Americans and other Westerners to join its lines. This is a problem because these Americans and other Westerners have embraced an ideology that is viciously hostile to every aspect of Western civilization. Last Friday, Buzz Feed published a compilation of social…

What Would Braveheart Do?
Pat Buchanan, RealClearPolitics
No matter how the vote turns out on Thursday in Scotland, either for independence or continued union with Britain, the disintegration of the Old Continent appears almost inevitable. Already the British government has conceded that, even if the Scots vote for union, Edinburgh will receive greater powers to rule itself. Cheering for the breakup of the U.K. are Catalans and Basques, Bretons and Corsicans, Tyroleans, Venetians, Flemish, all dreaming of nations of their own carved out of Spain, France, Italy and Belgium. Europe’s secessionists have waxed ever stronger since the last decade of the…


Billionaire in NI education grant

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 17th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Billionaire in NI education grant
A US billionaire philanthropist donates almost £25m to shared education, dementia care and early years learning programmes in Northern Ireland, as part of an overall £58m investment.

IS ‘fuelling UK far-right backlash’
Islamic extremism in the Middle East and the Rotherham abuse scandal are fuelling a UK far-right backlash, a Home Office adviser claims.

UK jobless rate falls to 2008 low
The UK rate fell to 6.2% in the three months to the end of July, while the number claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance has dipped below one million.


O-Care money for abortions ignites GOP

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 17th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

O-Care money for abortions ignites GOP
Anti-abortion activists plan to use evidence to boost GOP turnout.


Sinosphere Blog: Trying to Turn China’s Vacations Into Real Holidays

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 17th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Sinosphere Blog: Trying to Turn China’s Vacations Into Real Holidays
Facing complaints about nationwide Golden Weeks that cause crippling travel bottlenecks, China has closed the office that scheduled them and given the task to a higher-level ministerial conference.



Bad Vaccine Kills Dozens of Children Inside Syria
Volunteer medical organizations said the vaccine afflicted dozens of children in insurgent-held areas of Idlib Province.



World Briefing: Fiji: Strongman Leading in Election Count
Fiji’s military ruler for the past eight years appeared to be headed to a decisive victory after the nation voted in a landmark election on Wednesday.



Sinosphere Blog: Lawsuit Aims to Put an End to ‘Gay Conversion Therapy’ in China
China decriminalized homosexuality in 1997 and declassified it as a mental illness in 2001, but clinics promising to “convert” gay people abound in a country where pressure to join the heterosexual mainstream is high.



World Briefing: Bangladesh: Islamist Leader’s Death Penalty Dropped
Bangladesh’s Supreme Court commuted the death sentence of an Islamist political leader on Wednesday who was convicted last year of war crimes during the nation’s 1971 war for independence.




Debt Activists Just Canceled $4 Million In Student Debt. For Their Next Trick, They Need Your Help.

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 17th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Debt Activists Just Canceled $4 Million In Student Debt. For Their Next Trick, They Need Your Help.

Debt activists want to turn the relationship between borrowers and creditors on its head with a campaign modeled on the early labor movement.

The post Debt Activists Just Canceled $4 Million In Student Debt. For Their Next Trick, They Need Your Help. appeared first on ThinkProgress.

A sign for Everest Institute, one of several for-profit college brands operated by Corinthian Colleges Inc.

A sign for Everest Institute, one of several for-profit college brands operated by Corinthian Colleges Inc.

CREDIT: AP

Judith Linhoss was hoping to become a certified paralegal. “I had worked in law offices since I was 17 and I’m 68 now,” Linhoss said in an interview. But there was a catch: “It was extremely expensive. It took every dime of my student loans. I got a Pell Grant at the time and it took that too.” Linhoss decided to stop attending Everest College online after four ten-week terms, having already spent $27,000 in federal loan and grant money to buy her way into redundant coursework.

“But they have an automatic re-enroll you plan,” Linhoss said, and “about a month later I got a bill for $930.” Months of phone tag with Everest College staff didn’t produce any resolution, and with Linhoss determined not to pay for classes she hadn’t enrolled in, the two parties were in a stand-off.

Then a letter from the Strike Debt campaign arrived at her Memphis-area home, and she learned that her $930 debt had been canceled.

On Wednesday, a group born out of the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011 announced that it had canceled nearly $4 million in private student loans taken out by students at for-profit colleges — including Linhoss’. The activists spent about $100,000 to purchase student loan debt owed to Corinthian Colleges, the parent company of Everest. The debt was ostensibly worth $3.8 million. Once the group owned the debt, it simply voided loans. That means the debts were actually worth roughly 3 cents for every dollar that students like Judith Linhoss would’ve been forced to repay. (The money came from a campaign called Rolling Jubilee, but the activists call their new effort The Debt Collective and are also known as Strike Debt.)

Before Corinthian went bankrupt this summer amid mounting federal scrutiny of its business practices, Everest College commonly initiated private-market student loans like these for students like Linhoss. Such debts are commonly resold for pennies on the dollar on a secondary market to debt collectors who then press the Linhosses of the world for full repayment in order to turn a profit, Strike Debt and Rolling Jubilee organizer Thomas Gokey explained by phone. His group is looking to upend that dynamic.

“A debt collector will call you up and say you owe 100 percent of this debt, but behind closed doors that debt collector is working for an investor who bought that same debt for on average 4 cents on the dollar,” Gokey said. DebtCollective.org, the digital platform the Occupy offshoot is launching alongside the student loan cancellation announcement, carries the slogan “You are not a loan.” The campaign intends not only to expose the real value of debts but also to reverse the traditional power dynamic between those who owe and those who collect. “Rolling Jubilee is really good at is punching through the phony morality around debt,” Gokey said.

Wednesday’s announcement has distant roots in the 2011 protests in New York’s financial district. That’s where Strike Debt organizer and associate UCLA professor Hannah Appel first connected with Occupy Wall Street. A year later, the Rolling Jubilee campaign started raising money to buy and cancel various types of debt. In 2013, it announced it had erased almost $15 million in outstanding medical debts at an actual cost of just $400,000, and shortly after that the focus shifted to student debt.

“Rolling Jubilee was a spark,” Appel said in an interview. “It’s a tactic to really change people’s ideas about what debt is, how it can work, what the potentials are around debt, that it’s not only potentially profitable to creditors but it’s also this potential platform for collective action.”

The trick for The Debt Collective (and the nesting-doll sequence of differently branded groups that have launched it) will be turning the initial thrill of canceled debts into a sustained movement. “It feels almost like a magic trick. It’s an exciting magic trick, and one that hopefully opens people’s imaginations,” Appel said. “The Debt Collective, there’s a lot that’s magical about it, but it’s not a magic trick. It doesn’t happen overnight, it really is about hard organizing over time.”

She likened the effort to labor organizing in the early 20th century before unions had succeeded in channeling workers’ voices into a political force that could win legal protections on the jobsite. Unlike workers organizing with colleagues in the same factory, though, “debtors don’t share a place of work. Debtors often don’t share the same state, let alone the same factory floor.” Appel, Gokey, and their colleagues hope that DebtCollective.org will provide an organizing platform for people to exercise the same kind of mass movement power that rewrote the social contract between employer and employee decades ago.

“If you owe the bank $1,000, the bank owns you. But if you owe the bank a million dollars, you own the bank,” Appel said. “What we want to do is say, wait a minute, student debtors alone owe $1.3 trillion. If we could start acting together, we could think a lot bigger than interest rates.”

The vast majority of that $1.3 trillion can’t be bought up and canceled for cents on the dollar, however, because it is guaranteed by the federal government and essentially impossible to escape through bankruptcy or any of the other borrower protections that apply to other forms of debt. That’s why Debt Collective was only able to cancel $930 of Judith Linhoss’ nearly $15,000 in outstanding debt from her four terms at Everest Online.

Debt Collective originally tried to buy some of Sallie Mae’s debts. Sallie Mae, the primary private company that handles student lending for the government, also issues billions of dollars in private loans to aspiring students. Like Corinthian’s private loans, Sallie Mae’s non-taxpayer lending is a more expensive financing option for students, and is sold to collectors in secondary markets. This lending is not attached to taxpayer money, and the company touted the growth in its private lending line as the primary source of its improved profit outlook in a recent investor report. “Net interest income increased 35 percent from the year-ago quarter to $144 million, as a result of a $1.8 billion increase in average private education loans outstanding,” a press release on second-quarter profits said, boasting of a 40 percent jump in the company’s private lending from the year before.

The group was rebuffed, Gokey said, once Sallie Mae Vice President Doug St. Peters realized they intended to void the debts.

“We started by going after Sallie Mae debt because Sallie Mae is for my generation sort of the Voldemort, this cosmic level of evil out there,” Gokey said. But after suggesting that Sallie Mae typically sells those debts for 15 cents on the dollar, St. Peters abruptly changed course and refused to deal with Gokey and Debt Collective, he said. (St. Peters did not return a call seeking comment.)

At that point, the organizers refocused their energy on the for-profit education sector and Corinthian Colleges. That company’s chains are notorious for falsifying statistics about graduation rates and job market success for alumni, and even bribing companies to hire graduates for temporary make-work jobs so that they can inflate their numbers. They also aggressively market themselves to people who have not successfully accessed traditional higher education options — which tends to mean hunting down would-be strivers from low-income communities of color, Gokey said.

“We’ve created at two-tiered system in which middle-class predominantly white students go to these legitimate schools where they’re offered a real education,” Gokey said. “Yes it’s too expensive, and people are graduating with massive amounts of debt even if they’re going to a school like UCLA, but it’s a real education. And then we’ve set up this second tier where the education itself is fake, but it costs significantly more.”

Though Wednesday’s announcement canceled just a sliver of the debt Corinthian has ginned up for its students, the group’s effort to beat back those debts is getting an assist from the feds. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has stepped up its oversight of for-profit schools under its power to police debt markets on behalf of borrowers, announced a half-billion-dollar lawsuit against Corinthian this week seeking to overturn illegitimate loan debts.

Organizers acknowledge that Rolling Jubilee’s tactics can only chip away at the edges of a $1.3 trillion problem. Gokey and Appel each suggested that public education should be free, and pointed out that it would cost less to make public universities and community colleges tuition-free than it does to finance the current debt-financed system of higher education.

But they also want to see a fundamental shift in the American economy, “away from the way that credit and debt need to be used for the most basic things in life,” Appel said, and toward an economy where “you do not have to go into crippling debt simply to access health care, housing, and education.” That more aggressive labor-style campaign against the status quo of how debt markets operate will mean risking major credit report complications and potentially even arrest. Despite those challenges and risks, Appel sees “a lot more possibilities than we imagine right now.”

“We don’t even know what would happen if 100,000 Sallie Mae debtors with $100,000 of Sallie Mae debt each were to go on coordinated strikes with a bunch of media attention, with a bunch of legal attention. Would they all be thrown in jail? Or would there be too much pressure, too much public opinion?” she said. “I think we have some wiggle room here.”

And the flood of emails that come in in response to Rolling Jubilee’s victories gives Appel reason to hope. “It suggests to us that if that person knew they were not alone and not a loan, they would say wait a minute, there are this many people in this circumstance?”

“I think there’s a real desire out there for this,” she said. “People feel like this is something I need to get involved in. And I understand that it’s not going to buy my debt tomorrow. I understand that it is asking something of me. And this is something that I’m willing to do.”

Judith Linhoss is one person who might be willing to get involved in that kind of movement. She certainly has the time for it these days. She lost her job as a legal assistant with the county school system in August. “I had a job in a law firm and this job came open online and the pay was double for me so I took it,” she explained. “Now I wish I hadn’t.”

“Live and learn, right?”

The post Debt Activists Just Canceled $4 Million In Student Debt. For Their Next Trick, They Need Your Help. appeared first on ThinkProgress.


How Art Inspires Change

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 17th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

How Art Inspires Change
From: StudentNation

The Nation and the Center for Community Change partnered together for an essay contest in which young people were asked to submit a photo they found meaningful and an essay explaining the significance of the photo in 500 words.

Scotland’s Referendum on Austerity
From: John Nichols

A remarkable democratic debate over independence has forced an admission that austerity is a vital, perhaps definitive, issue.

How Hard Times Are Healing Bosnia
From: Foreign Policy In Focus

Amid rising anti-government sentiment and a series of natural disasters, Bosnia-Herzegovina's fractured ethnic communities are drawing strength from an unlikely source: each other.

While the Fashion World Swoons Over This Season’s Styles, the Workers Making Them Are Fainting on the Job
From: Michelle Chen

Cambodia’s garment workers are fighting for something they’ve never had before: a living wage.