Showing posts with label US Government. Show all posts
Showing posts with label US Government. Show all posts

October 28, 2019

U.S.Ed.Dept.DeVos (on Contempt) Continues To Collect Loans For Defunct For Profit Colleges

federal judge has fined U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for contempt of court for failing to stop collecting loans from former students of a now-defunct chain of for-profit colleges.
The court ruling orders the Education Department to pay a $100,000 fine. The judge said Devos had violated an order to stop collecting loans owed by students who had been defrauded by Corinthian Colleges.
In a video statement, the Education Department said loan servicers had "mistakenly" billed about 16,000 students and parents. Those borrowers have since been reimbursed, according to the video message.
Money from the fine will go toward various remedies and legal expenses for students who are owed debt relief from the Education Department after Corinthian Colleges collapsed in 2014, according to the ruling.
The decision stems from a 2017 class-action lawsuit against the Education Department, filed on behalf of former Corinthian students. 
Corinthian was found to have misrepresented its job placement rates. Under its rules at the time, and by a preliminary injunction issued in June of last year, the Education Department was supposed to simply refund all the money borrowed by students who attended Corinthian during the time it was making false claims.  
Instead, according to the ruling, the department "erroneously" sent messages to more than 16,000 borrowers to pay up. Some did so voluntarily. Others had their wages garnished or tax refunds seized by the government. Ten third-party contractors were involved in collecting the loans, and the judge's opinion notes that the Education Department didn't do much to make sure it followed the orders, beyond sending a few emails.
It's rare for a judge to find a Cabinet secretary in contempt of court. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a presidential candidate, has called for DeVos to resign over this issue.
This is not the only case related to this class of Corinthian borrowers making its way through the courts. In 2017, the Education Department changed the rules on loan forgiveness for Corinthian borrowers. Back then, the department announced it intended to grant partial to full relief of loans, based on how much money borrowers were earning. The department got that earning information from the Social Security Administration, and the borrowers allege that this violated their privacy and that the rule change is illegal.

January 8, 2019

There's No Real Defense for How Little the Rich Pay in Taxes and They Know It Starting With Wealthy Republicans

Image result for richest republicans in 2018 congress
 The Atlantic photo (Members of congress celebrate the tax deduction for the rich bill)
 By Luke Darby

Wealthy Republicans Are Acting Like They Have No Idea How Taxes Work
 Over the weekend, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made headlines for a minutes-long exchange in a 60 Minutes interview. In it, she proposed that the Green New Deal, a last-ditch effort to fight climate change before the worst effects of it become irreversible, could be funded at least in part by raising the highest tax bracket up to 70 percent.
Now, what this means is that every dollar a person takes in over $10 million would be taxed at a rate of 70 percent. This would obviously affect only the wealthiest Americans, about 0.05 percent of U.S. households, and would raise a projected $720 billion over 10 years. It's also not new, rather it would be a return to what the tax rates were for decades. But according to many high-profile Republicans, it's outright theft.
First there's Dan Crenshaw, who at least admits that he knows what tax brackets are, even if he misrepresents them in his first tweet. But he's a newly-sworn in freshmen in the House. Much more prominent GOP figures than Crenshaw are pretending they don't understand the U.S. tax code at all, including one of highest ranking Republicans in Congress: Steve Scalise, the Louisiana representative who's served in the House for a decade and now is the House Minority Whip. He claimed that the increase would take 70 percent of all income from all Americans.
Ironically, Scalise would only be right if the U.S. were on a flat tax system (where everyone pays the same rate regardless of how much or how little money they have), which Republicans have been pushing for. And Grover Norquist, one of the people most responsible for the GOP's lurch to anti-tax hysteria and who has advocated for a flat tax for years, also weighed in, describing slavery as "when your owner takes 100% of your production."
Norquist is actually describing bosses, not slave owners, but that's not even the grossest thing you have to ignore to make the case that the richest Americans are 30-some-odd percent slaves right now because of their tax bracket. (It should also make any news network seriously reconsider giving Norquist air time as a "tax expert" ever again.)
But raising taxes for the rich has the support of many economists, including Nobel laureates, and many of those think 70 percent is too low. And despite Republican claims, the U.S. wouldn't be the only country with such high rates. At the People's Policy Project, Matt Bruenig writes:
Sweden still manages to have dozens of billionaires.
In 2014, the top one percent of tax payers paid nearly 40 percent of income taxes, more than $540 billion, which certainly seems like a lot. But they also take in the lion's share of wealth and income, more than 25 times as much as the other 99 percent, and income inequality is only growing.
Of course, millionaires and billionaires are far and away the Republican Party's top concern. The Koch brothers alone are likely to be $1 billion richer after the most recent Republican tax cuts, while Paul Ryan celebrated a secretary taking home an extra $1.50 per week.
It's no surprise that when Republicans actually have to go on the defensive, when they have to explain why it's so abhorrent to raise taxes on the richest of the rich, they have to pretend it's an attack on the working class as well. People in the wealthiest 0.1 percent in the U.S. make an average of $35 million annually and the GOP knows it reeks of bullshit to argue that they should keep even more of that last $25 million. Countless repairs and improvements could be made to schools, hospitals, and infrastructure across the country, all for an amount that would still leave the one percent the richest people in the world.

September 10, 2016

Agreement Reached with US-Russia to Reduce Violence

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced Friday that the U.S. and Russia have finalized a plan to reduce violence in war-torn Syria and allow humanitarian access.

Kerry called it a possible "turning point" in the five-year civil war.

The deal calls for a nationwide ceasefire to begin at sunset on Sept. 12. If the ceasefire holds for 7 days, it could lead to Russian and U.S. military coordination, Kerry said.

"If this arrangement holds, then we will see a significant reduction in violence across Syria," Kerry said in an address in Geneva.

The agreement also pullbacks from both sides in a major road in the war-torn city of Aleppo and the creation of a demilitarized zone, and unhindered humanitarian access.

Under the agreement the U.S. would work with opposition groups and the Russians with the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad to make sure the cease fire holds.

"I want to emphasize: These measures can only be implemented effectively if all the parties live up to their obligations," Kerry said.
Kerry said that if "legitimate opposition groups" want to be considered legitimate parties they "need to distance themselves in every way possible" from the terror groups al-Nusra Front and ISIS.

"And we expect that Russia will ensure that the Syrian government will adhere to all of its requirements about its air activities and about the access for humanitarian deliverance," Kerry said.

The agreement would involve a joint center to share initial information and delineate territories controlled by opposition groups as part of the broader peace effort, Kerry said.

Eventually, U.S. and Russian experts would work together to defeat ISIS and al-Nusra in the country, he said.

The deal looked like it might not occur earlier Friday. ussian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he was considering "calling it a day" and blamed Washington for an impasse.

Shortly before midnight Geneva time (7 p.m. ET), Lavrov appeared with several boxes of pizza, saying: "This is from the U.S. delegation." A few minutes later he returned with two bottles of vodka, adding: "This is from the Russian delegation."

Kerry and Lavrov said two weeks ago that the two countries were "close" to a deal but that technical details remained and there was more work to do.

A nationwide ceasefire was declared in February, but it collapsed after frequent violations.


March 14, 2016

US foreign Aide Allocation-How much do they Get


Just over half the public think the U.S. gives too much away in foreign aid, and Democrats and Republicans disagree over who should receive aid

In absolute terms the United States has the world's largest development aid budget of over $31 billion in 2013. Relative to the size of America's economy, however, the United States is actually one of the least generous wealthy countries, with an aid budget almost three-quarters smaller than the UK's. Like most wealthy countries the United States aspires to give 0.7% of national income in aid each year, a goal that will come closer as John Kerry seeks to win congressional approval for a $50 billion foreign aid budget.
Research from YouGov indicates, however, that Americans either aren't aware or aren't convinced that, relatively speaking, America's foreign aid contribution is smaller than in many other countries. Most Americans (52%) say that the U.S. gives more in foreign aid than other countries relative to the size of the American economy, while only 11% say that the U.S. gives less. Almost exactly the same percentage (51%) believe that the U.S. gives too much in foreign aid, while only 9% think that the U.S. should give more to developing countries. 
Republicans (68%) are more likely than other to think the U.S. gives to much in aid, but even Democrats (42%) tend to agree that Uncle Sam is too generous internationally. 
Democrats and Republicans do differ quite significantly, however, on what the focus of American foreign aid should be. Half of Democrats (49%) say that foreign aid should be focused on the world’s poorest countries, while most Republicans (59%) believe that American aid should be used to reward countries which support American foreign policy.

March 3, 2016

US Ambassador to UN Takes Russian Counterpart to Gay Play

Image result for Tony Award-winning play “Fun Home”

Over 70 countries have anti-gay laws which is one reason why Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, decided to take 17 U.N. ambassadors to the theater Tuesday night to see the Tony Award-winning play “Fun Home” whose main character is a lesbian with a closeted gay dad.

Power, a strong advocate for the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals, got a standing ovation at the end of the play, led by Tony nominee Beth Malone who thanked her and President Barack Obama for doing “so much for LGBT rights.”

Based on the autobiographical graphic novel by Alison Bechdel, “Fun Home” centers on growing up in a family-owned funeral home in a small Pennsylvania town where the daughter realizes she’s attracted to women and the father has secretly had affairs with men.
Power said she invited a diverse group of ambassadors to see the stories of real lives to bring home “the challenges that LGBT people face every day around the world.”

According to a report last June by the U.N. human rights chief, at least 76 countries have laws used to criminalize and harass people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, including laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relationships among adults.

The 17 ambassadors spanned the globe from Australia, Vietnam and Namibia to Norway, Mexico, Uruguay and Russia, which was strongly criticized for its anti-gay laws ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Several ambassadors said after the play that they arrived not knowing what it was about.

Power said the play dramatizes the LGBT issue “in a way that (U.N.) resolutions and statements never can.”
“This is the way we are going to break through,” she said. “It’s about imagining oneself. It’s about imagining one’s child. It’s about imagining one’s father.”

But Power stressed that “it takes time to change the DNA of the U.N. just as it’s taken a lot of time to change the DNA of the United States.”

Actress Cynthia Nixon from the TV series “Sex and the City” moderated an after-theater panel with the writers and cast, followed by comments from several ambassadors.
“Too often our work is about abstracts,” Switzerland’s Ambassador Jurg Lauber said. “Once in a while it’s important to tell us it’s about people.”

Joao Vale de Almeida, the European Union’s ambassador to the U.N. who is from Portugal, said his younger brother told him that he was gay on a long car ride – similar to one in the play – and they organized the way that he would tell their parents.

“It could have gone wrong but they went pretty well,” he said. “It’s a good story in my case. I know (for) other people, the stories were not so good.”
Vale de Almeida said the performance was “great” and told the cast “it’s crucial that you shared (the story) with everybody.”

July 10, 2015

US Provides Straight Marriage Benefits to Same Sex Marriages


Same-sex married couples can start applying for Social Security and veterans benefits for spouses in all 50 states, but there are still issues to resolve as the federal government works to implement the Supreme Court ruling allowing gay couples to marry nationwide.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Thursday the federal government is making marriage benefits available to same-sex couples in every state.
The vast majority of federal marriage benefits were already available to same-sex couples, following a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that struck down the federal ban on gay marriage. However, some Social Security and veterans benefits for spouses were still denied to these couples if they lived in states that did not recognize their marriages.
"I am proud to announce that the critical programs for veterans and elderly and disabled Americans, which previously could not give effect to the marriages of couples living in states that did not recognize those marriages, will now provide federal recognition for all marriages nationwide," Lynch said in a statement. "The agencies are currently working towards providing guidance to implement this change in law."
The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision last month that the Constitution provides a right to same-sex marriage. Before the ruling, there were 13 states that did not recognize same-sex marriages.
In her statement, Lynch said the government will strive to "fulfill our commitment to equal treatment for all Americans."
But there are still unresolved questions about how the federal government will implement the ruling, said Vickie Henry, a senior staff attorney for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, a legal advocacy group.
For example, Social Security had been denying spousal benefits to same-sex married couples if — at the time they applied for benefits — they were living in a state that did not recognize their marriage. Also, they were denied survivor's benefits if their same-sex spouse died while living in a state that did not recognize their marriage.
Will same-sex spouses who were denied benefits now be able to go back to Social Security and re-apply?
Likewise, the Department of Veterans Affairs had been denying spousal benefits if — at the time they applied for benefits — couples were living in a state that did not recognize their marriage.
Will spouses be able to reapply if the VA denied their applications for pensions, home loans, education benefits, medical services or burial benefits?
Stay tuned, says the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Both agencies said Thursday they are still working to implement the ruling.
"With this terrific statement from the attorney general, the devil is in the details," Henry said. "Marriage benefits are available to same-sex couples nationwide, and that's as it should be. I think that is what the Supreme Court ruling requires. But what does that mean?"
In a statement, Social Security said same-sex couples should apply for benefits right away, if they believe they qualify.
"Applying now will preserve your filing date, which will protect you against the loss of any potential benefits," the agency said.
The VA said in a statement that it will work quickly to issue new guidance. In the meantime, the agency says it will temporarily wait to rule on claims that were not covered before the Supreme Court ruling.

Read more here:

May 22, 2015

Pres.Obama Sends Gay Envoy to Homophobic Uganda through Homophobic Jamaica

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
 submitted on the following story about this welcome decision by President Obama. Imagine sending a gay emboy to make the case to one of the most homophobes countries in the World.
 The U.S. State Department’s newly-appointed special envoy for LGBT rights, Randy Berry, is planning a visit to Uganda in July, a State Department spokesperson confirmed to BuzzFeed News.
The State Department could not immediately provide further details of the trip or what Berry hoped to accomplish in a visit to the country at the center of one of the longest running international confrontations over LGBT rights. Ugandan and American LGBT activists have previously criticized the U.S. response to the passage of a sweeping anti-LGBT law in 2014 for being slow and sending missed messages, but the law was struck down in August of that year. Attempts to restore the law have so far failed to gain traction in the face of apparent opposition from President Yoweri Museveni.
Berry, who was selected for the post in February and began work in April, will first be doing swings through Latin America and Europe in the coming weeks, said the State Department spokesperson. Berry told attendees at an event at the Human Rights Campaign on Tuesday that he planned to visit more than 15 countries in the next month, according to a source in the room. 
On Tuesday, the State Department announced that Berry will fly to Jamaica on Thursday, which has some of the highest rates of anti-LGBT violence in the region.

March 3, 2015

LGBT Rights Are Finally Recognized as Human Rights by the U.S. Government



Secretary of State John Kerry announced Feb. 23 that Randy Berry, current U.S. consul general in the Netherlands, would begin serving as the United States’ first Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons.   
In his new role, Berry, an openly gay senior diplomat, is expected to advocate for LGBT rights worldwide, focusing on the more than 75 countries in which same-sex relationships remain illegal, according to a Feb. 23 statement from the U.S. Department of State. Berry will be responsible for making efforts to decrease instances of discrimination and violence against LGBT people across the world in addition to promoting international equality for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. 
“Defending and promoting the human rights of LGBT persons is at the core of our commitment to advancing human rights globally—the heart and conscience of our diplomacy,” Kerry said in the statement.
Berry’s new appointment comes at a time when the nation’s LGBT community has seen progress in its ongoing fight for equality. There is still a great deal of work to be done, but much of the United States population and its lawmakers have become more accepting of LGBT people and their rights since President Barack Obama publicly advocated for the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2012. 
Previously, Obama was open about his opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act—which allowed states to ignore same-sex marriages legally granted by other states—as well as his determination to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The president’s statements in support of marriage equality as well as general equality for LGBT people inspired a sweeping change in attitude from the long-standing mindset of politicians in considering LGBT rights separate from human rights. 
“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law—for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well,” Obama said in the 2012 interview.
Despite the government’s apparent interest in pushing progress for the LGBT community, a massive oversight on the part of news organizations including Time, came with several media outlets reported Berry’s new title as “envoy for LGBT rights,” though the statement from the U.S. Department of State clearly labeled the position as “Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT persons.” 
Referring to Berry’s title in its entirety may be a mouthful, and as a reporter and editor, I find it understandable why some news outlets might think it is acceptable to shorten the official name of Berry’s position. However, what those news outlets seem to have overlooked is that the U.S. Department of State made a calculated choice to use that specific phrasing in Berry’s title in an effort to make clear the distinction that his position is intended to promote human rights for LGBT people and to spread what appears to be the United States government’s newfound recognition of LGBT rights as human rights. 
As a nation that loves to tout itself as one that leads—or attempts to lead—its fellow nations, this new position is symbolic of more than just a change in Berry’s employment, but of a deeper societal transition in the United States and other nations. The position is symbolic of the United States’ continuing progress toward recognizing human rights for all its citizens. Advocating for an end to violence and discrimination against LGBT people is an admirable goal for 
the government. 
A large part of the nation is still populated with individuals who strongly disagree with marriage equality and other LGBT rights initiatives, but the U.S. government and its politicians should take pride in the decision to implement this international initiative if they want to consider the United States a leading nation. 
All people are entitled to their own religious and spiritual beliefs, and many Americans still oppose same-sex relationships, but they should not interfere with the safety and rights of LGBT people. The United States government is well overdue in recognizing this in a serious and productive way. 
The United States continues to take pride in being a leading, progressive nation, but often those terms have been used in ways that are simply inaccurate. However, acknowledging the rights of the country’s and the world’s LGBT people as human rights is a step in the right direction and is definitely an initiative a leading nation should pursue. 

October 27, 2014

The Federal Government Adds 6 More States for Gay Marriage Benefits

The federal government will recognize same-sex marriage in six new states, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Saturday: Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Holder’s announcement follows the Supreme Court’s decision this month to decline to hear appeals from several states that sought to maintain their marriage bans. 
The government will also extend federal benefits to same-sex couples in those six states.
Holder made a similar announcement about seven other states last week, including Colorado, Indiana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. With Saturday’s announcement, same-sex couples will be recognized by the federal government in 32 states, plus the District of Columbia.
“With each new state where same-sex marriages are legally recognized, our nation moves closer to achieving of full equality for all Americans,” Holder said in a statement Saturday. “We are acting as quickly as possible with agencies throughout the government to ensure that same-sex married couples in these states receive the fullest array of benefits allowable under federal law.”

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