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Member since: Wed Oct 7, 2015, 08:51 AM
Number of posts: 2,208

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Here's how you get your student debt erased

By Alexander Holt

"At the Republican debate Wednesday, John Kasich proved himself to be the true Jon Huntsman of this cycle when he brought up federal student loan debt and said, "For those that have these big high costs, I think we can seriously look at an idea of where you can do ... legitimate public service and begin to pay off some of that debt through the public service that you do."

Actually, that idea is already law, it's called the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, or PSLF, in which borrowers pay an affordable percentage of their income every month, and after 10 years any remaining debt is forgiven.

It's a flawed program. Defining "legitimate public service" turns out to be difficult. Right now, anyone working for any level of government or a 501(c)(3) nonprofit qualifies. That means many lawyers and doctors, even those earning high incomes in their 10th year of repayment (say, over $100,000) still potentially have the ability to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars forgiven from the expensive degrees they received from elite institutions.

And lately, people who think they are doing a public service, but don't work for a nonprofit, think they ought to qualify as well.
he most recent group who deem themselves worthy of qualification are farmers. Take Emily Best, a 32-year-old Pennsylvania farmer with debt from graduate school, as reported by MartketWatch. She's doing the public a tremendous service by growing the food we eat, so why shouldn't she get PSLF? The difficulty of answering the question demonstrates why it's so tricky trying to define whatever Kasich, or anyone else, means by "legitimate public service."

Best is actually already eligible for and using a generous provision that anyone with a federal student loan can benefit from called Income-Based Repayment, in which she pays a percentage of her income. In fact, for people who make less than $17,655 a year, the monthly payment is zero. That would include Best, who makes $1,600 a month (though her room and board is covered by her employer), and if she fails to pay off her loan it will be forgiven after 20 or 25 years (there are a number of variations).

So Best's payment is already zero, but she's arguing for PSLF, a separate program (that can be used in conjunction with Income-Based Repayment,) that forgives all debt after 10 years of working for the government or a nonprofit. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, about 25% of all workers in the economy work for a government entity or a nonprofit. But not Best, because her farm is for-profit."


Shot in the Heart When Yitzhak Rabin was killed, did the prospects for peace perish, too?


"Aassination is an unpredictable act. Historically speaking, high-profile political killings have been as likely to produce backlashes and unintended consequences as they have been to achieve the assassin’s goal, if he had one. When Lee Harvey Oswald killed President Kennedy, the result was an outpouring of national soul-searching, which Lyndon Johnson took advantage of to push civil-rights and Great Society legislation through Congress. When Syrians conspired to murder Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese President, in 2005, the result was not continued Syrian domination of Lebanon but a national uprising followed by a humiliating evacuation of Assad’s forces.

Yet the killing of Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister, in 1995, by Yigal Amir, an Israeli extremist, bids to be one of history’s most effective political murders. Two years earlier, Rabin, setting aside a lifetime of enmity, appeared on the White House lawn with Yasir Arafat, the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization and a former terrorist, to agree to a framework for limited Palestinian self-rule in the occupied territories; the next year, somewhat less painfully, he returned to the White House, with Jordan’s King Hussein, to officially end a forty-six-year state of war. Within months of Rabin’s death, Benjamin Netanyahu was the new Prime Minister and the prospects for a wider-ranging peace in the Middle East, which had seemed in Rabin’s grasp, were dead, too. Twenty years later, Netanyahu is into his fourth term, and the kind of peace that Rabin envisaged seems more distant than ever.

The story of Rabin’s assassination, told in “Killing a King” (Norton), by the journalist Dan Ephron, inevitably raises the question of what might have been. At the time of his death, Rabin showed every intention of trying to forge a broader peace that would have included ceding most of the occupied territories to the Palestinians, and probably would have resulted in the establishment of an independent state.


In Heroin Crisis, White Families Seek Gentler War on Drugs

"NEWTON, N.H. — When Courtney Griffin was using heroin, she lied, disappeared, and stole from her parents to support her $400-a-day habit. Her family paid her debts, never filed a police report and kept her addiction secret — until she was found dead last year of an overdose.

At Courtney’s funeral, they decided to acknowledge the reality that redefined their lives: Their bright, beautiful daughter, just 20, who played the French horn in high school and dreamed of living in Hawaii, had been kicked out of the Marines for drugs. Eventually, she overdosed at her boyfriend’s grandmother’s house, where she died alone.

“When I was a kid, junkies were the worst,” Doug Griffin, 63, Courtney’s father, recalled in their comfortable home here in southeastern New Hampshire. “I used to have an office in New York City. I saw them.”

Noting that “junkies” is a word he would never use now, he said that these days, “they’re working right next to you and you don’t even know it. They’re in my daughter’s bedroom — they are my daughter.”

When the nation’s long-running war against drugs was defined by the crack epidemic and based in poor, predominantly black urban areas, the public response was defined by zero tolerance and stiff prison sentences. But today’s heroin crisis is different. While heroin use has climbed among all demographic groups, it has skyrocketed among whites; nearly 90 percent of those who tried heroin for the first time in the last decade were white.

And the growing army of families of those lost to heroin — many of them in the suburbs and small towns — are now using their influence, anger and grief to cushion the country’s approach to drugs, from altering the language around addiction to prodding government to treat it not as a crime, but as a disease."



This represents progress on our views on drug addiction, which is a good thing, but will it be applied equitably across racial lines?

The Uber-economy f**ks us all: How “permalancers” and “sharer” gigs gut the middle class

The "sharing" economy sounds groovy: politically neutral, anti-consumerist. Wait until it comes for your job

"A significant factor in the decline of the quality of jobs in the United States has been employers’ increasing reliance on “non-regular” employees — a growing army of freelancers, temps, contractors, part-timers, day laborers, micro-entrepreneurs, gig-preneurs, solo-preneurs, contingent labor, perma-lancers and perma-temps. It’s practically a new taxonomy for a workforce that has become segmented into a dizzying assortment of labor categories. Even many full-time, professional jobs and occupations are experiencing this precarious shift.

This practice has given rise to the term “1099 economy,” since these employees don’t file W-2 income tax forms like any regular, permanent employee; instead, they file the 1099-MISC form for an IRS classification known as “independent contractor.” The advantage for a business of using 1099 workers over W-2 wage-earners is obvious: an employer usually can lower its labor costs dramatically, often by 30 percent or more, since it is not responsible for a 1099 worker’s health benefits, retirement, unemployment or injured workers compensation, lunch breaks, overtime, disability, paid sick, holiday or vacation leave and more. In addition, contract workers are paid only for the specific number of hours they spend providing labor, which increasingly is being reduced to shorter and shorter “micro-gigs.”

In a sense, employers and employees used to be married to each other, and there was a sense of commitment and a joined destiny. Now, employers just want a bunch of one-night stands with their employees, a promiscuousness that promises to be not only fleeting but destabilizing to the broader macroeconomy. Set to replace the crumbling New Deal society is a darker world in which wealthy and powerful economic elite are collaborating with their political cronies to erect the policy edifice that allows them to mold their proprietary workforce into one composed of a disjointed collection of 1099 employees. Employers have called off the marriage with their employees, preferring a series of on-again, off-again affairs.

This is a direct threat to the nation’s future, as well as to what has been lionized around the world as the “American Dream.” "


Taiwan urged to prove worth in US ‘rebalancing’

PIVOTAL POLICY:Hudson Institute director of Chinese strategy Michael Pillsbury said that Taiwanese should put forward tangible suggestions regarding the US’ Asia pivot

By Stacy Hsu / Staff reporter, Taipei Times

Taiwan should step up efforts to prove it can be a useful partner in the US’ foreign policy in Asia, but refrain from implementing any radical changes that could unsettle cross-strait relations, Hudson Institute director of Chinese strategy Michael Pillsbury said.
Pillsbury, a former US assistant undersecretary of defense for policy planning, was speaking at a forum titled “Beijing’s Strategy of Unification toward Taiwan and the US Response” at the legislature in Taipei yesterday morning.

The event was organized by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Mark Chen (陳唐?, who served as foreign minister during former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水? administration. It was attended by several Taiwanese academics and foreign affairs experts.

Speaking in fluent Mandarin, Pillsbury said none of the US’ high-ranking officials have openly revealed whether Taiwan is included in its “rebalancing” toward Asia, but the policy is expected to continue regardless of who is the next US president.
“That is why Taiwanese people, both in the political or academic industries, are urged to put forward tangible rather than vague suggestions regarding the US’ Asia pivot and clearly express their nation’s aspiration to be a part of it,” Pillsbury said.

To address its international and regional exclusion amid growing ties between the US and China, Pillsbury said there are several measures Taiwan can take to undermine Washington-Beijing relations.

“It could change the name designation for Taiwan, issue a different passport, or scrap its current national flag that reminds most people of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s party flag,” Pillsbury said. “However, these actions would inevitably been seen as crossing the red line by China’s People’s Liberation Army ... and I personally do not think Taiwan has to go down that road.”
Alternatively, Pillsbury said Taipei can surrender to Beijing and announce itself a part of the so-called “motherland,” but the move would most likely unnerve the US as it is the least favorable option among its citizens.

That leaves the nation with one last option: That Taiwanese intelligentsia endeavor to work out a way to allow Taipei to be a helpful partner in Washington’s rebalancing policy without aggravating the Chinese government, Pillsbury said.



Huh? "That leaves the nation with one last option: That Taiwanese intelligentsia endeavor to work out a way to allow Taipei to be a helpful partner in Washington’s rebalancing policy without aggravating the Chinese government, Pillsbury said."

Ok.... and what does THAT really mean, considering all the options he just ruled out as too aggressive or too submissive in regards to China?

Reports: Israel conducted airstrikes near Damascus

Source: YNet News

Reports: Israel conducted airstrikes near Damascus

A news site linked to Syrian opposition forces claims the IAF bombed Hezbollah and Syrian army positions on Friday night, while Al-Jazeera says Russia conducted strikes in that area at the time.

Israeli Air Force planes launched two strikes on Hezbollah and Syrian army targets overnight Friday, according to social media accounts linked to the Syrian opposition.

According to the reports, which were not confirmed by Israel, the strikes occurred in al-Qalamoun in the suburbs of Damascus, an area that foreign media outlets on previous occasions claimed that Israel has bombed.

Read more: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4718802,00.html


If true, why would Israel be bombing Syrian government positions at this time?

If NOT true, why would the Syrian opposition be claiming falsely that Israel is bombing Syrian government positions at this time?

Neither alternative makes any sense to me.

How The TPP Jeopardizes Canadian Health

"Picture this: a patient returns to the office for a follow-up visit with their physician. When asked how the prescribed treatment is working out, they answer: "I don't know, I couldn't afford to fill the prescription."

It's a story to which a growing number of Canadians, and nearly every Canadian doctor, can relate.

Canadians value our Medicare system, a system that allows us to see doctors without paying up-front costs. Unfortunately, according to a recent Angus Reid survey, 23 per cent of Canadians are unable to take their drugs as prescribed and this leads to worse health, missed work, unnecessary hospitalizations, and even death.

According to leaked drafts of the secretly negotiated Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the deal could increase the price of prescription drugs putting life saving drugs out of reach of even more Canadians.

The proposed intellectual property rules will excessively boost patent and data protections for brand name drug companies while preventing price-lowering generic competition. Based on this information, it appears the TPP will undermine the ability of governments to bulk purchase drugs, thus preventing governments from negotiating better drug prices from large pharmaceutical companies.

Through the TPP, drug companies intend to protect their absurd profit margins. Lipitor, a popular cholesterol-lowering drug, costs $800 per year for a Canadian but only $15 per year in New Zealand $800 per year for a Canadian but only $15 per year in New Zealnd where bulk purchases and price negotiations have dramatically lowered the price.

Why did the Harper government agree to force cash-strapped Canadians to fork out for brand name drugs? Perhaps it is because the drug companies, through organizations like the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufactures of America (PhRMA), have spent over $110 million lobbying the U.S. Congress to support the TPP."


Plenty of room to raise taxes on Canada’s richest, study says

"Raising taxes on the richest 1 per cent would still leave their tax rates lower than they were 40 years ago, says Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives."

OTTAWA—A new study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says there is plenty of room to raise taxes on the richest 1 per cent of the population and still leave their tax rates lower than they were 40 years ago.
The incoming Liberal government has proposed raising the top marginal income tax rate on those earning $200,000 or more.
That’s easily doable, the study says.
It says Canada, on average, has become a low-tax jurisdiction for the affluent compared with the U.S.
Even with provincial income tax added to federal income tax, the average total top marginal tax rate on labour income was 45.7 per cent in 2013.
That compares with an average top marginal income tax rate of 47.9 per cent across American states.
“The top marginal income tax rate has been well over 50 per cent for most of the time Canada has had an income tax,” said Lars Osberg, a research associate with the policy think tank.
“In fact, during Canada’s high growth years between 1940 and 1980, the top marginal income tax rate was well over 70 per cent. Now the top federal income tax rate is 29 per cent.

“Our federal government used to ask more of Canada’s richest 1 per cent. There are plenty of reasons to do so again.”


Racist violence reveals Sweden’s xenophobic underbelly

"Despite its self-image as a tolerant society, migrants often find racism and closed doors in Sweden"

By: Debra Black Immigration Reporter, Toronto Star (Canada)

"For thousands of refugees fleeing to Europe there is only one goal — to get to Sweden, a country known for its acceptance and tolerance of those escaping war and persecution.

But Sweden may not be as welcoming as they had hoped. A recent stabbing at a school in the small industrial city of Trollhattan, which killed a 20-year-old teacher and a 17-year-old student from Somalia, was described by police as an attack against “people with immigrant backgrounds.” There have also been 20 fires at refugee asylum centers.

The Scandinavian country has an underbelly of racism and xenophobia that could make life difficult for newcomers, says Daniel Poohl, managing director of Expo Foundation, an organization designed to shed light on racist ideas and organizations in Sweden.
Known for its civility and social cohesion, Sweden has seen an influx of immigrants, from the Balkans in the 1990s and more recently from Iraq and Afghanistan. But the latest wave of Syrian refugees — 190,000 are expected this year alone — has triggered an “agonizing” debate both politically and culturally, says Marie Demker, a professor of political science at the University of Gothenburg.
One outspoken anti-refugee and anti-immigrant group is the Swedish Democrats — a right-wing party that won 13 per cent of the vote in the September 2014 election. Now the third most powerful party in parliament, it is calling for a referendum on whether Sweden should close its borders to refugees and immigrants.

“Sweden is a country that is divided by the idea of us being a multicultural society,” says Poohl. Those who oppose the acceptance of refugees and immigrants are mobilizing and making their voices heard, he says.

Sweden is “very schizophrenic” when it comes to attitudes about racism and xenophobia, he says. “If you look at the majority of Swedes and their attitudes, Sweden stands out as an open and accepting country and people.” But, he adds, it is also clear people with “another skin colour” do not have the same opportunities. We’re very good at opening the first door for people, but very good at closing the next doors.”


We still think we’re heroes: The sad denialism that plagues American foreign policy

"World War II convinced us we were righteous liberators, but we've always been imperialists driven by self-interest"


"The United States is a peculiar sort of empire. As a start, Americans have been in what might be called imperial denial since the Spanish-American War of 1898, if not before. Empire — us? We denied its existence even while our soldiers were administering “water cures” (aka waterboarding) to recalcitrant Filipinos more than a century ago. Heck, we even told ourselves we were liberating those same Filipinos, which leads to a second point: the U.S. not only denies its imperial ambitions, but shrouds them in a curiously American brand of Christianized liberation theology. In it, American troops are never seen as conquerors or oppressors, always as liberators and freedom-bringers, or at least helpers and trainers. There’s just enough substance to this myth (World War II and the Marshall Plan, for example) to hide uglier imperial realities.

Denying that we’re an empire while cloaking its ugly side in missionary-speak are two enduring aspects of the American brand of imperialism, and there’s a third as well, even if it’s seldom noted. As the U.S. military garrisons the planet and its special operations forces alone visit more than 140 countries a year, American troops have effectively become the imperial equivalent of globetrotting tourists. Overloaded with technical gear and gadgets (deadly weapons, intrusive sensors), largely ignorant of foreign cultures, they arrive eager to help and spoiling for action, but never (individually) staying long. Think of them as the twenty-first-century version of the ugly American of Vietnam-era fame.

The ugliest of Americans these days may no longer be the meddling CIA operative of yesteryear; “he” may not even be human but a “made in America” drone. Think of such drones as especially unwelcome American tourists, cruising the exotic and picturesque backlands of the planet loaded with cameras and weaponry, ready to intervene in deadly ways in matters its operators, possibly thousands of miles away, don’t fully understand. Like normal flesh-and-blood tourists, the drone “sees” the local terrain, “senses” local activity, “detects” patterns among the inhabitants that appear threatening, and then blasts away. The drone and its operators, of course, don’t live in the land or grasp the nuances of local life, just as real tourists don’t. They are literally above it all, detached from it all, and even as they kill, often wrongfully, they’re winging their way back home to safety.

Imperial Tourism Syndrome

Call it Imperial Tourist Syndrome, a bizarre American affliction that creates its own self-sustaining dynamic. To a local, it might look something like this: U.S. forces come to your country, shoot some stuff up (liberation!), take some selfies, and then, if you’re lucky, leave (at least for a while). If you’re unlucky, they overstay their “welcome,” surge around a bit and generate chaos until, sooner or later (in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, much, much later), they exit, not always gracefully (witness Saigon 1975 or Iraq 2011).

And here’s the weirdest thing about this distinctly American version of the imperial: a persistent short-time mentality seems only to feed its opposite, wars that persist without end. In those wars, many of the country’s heavily armed imperial tourists find themselves sent back again and again for one abbreviated tour of duty after another, until it seems less like an adventure and more like a jail sentence."
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