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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Home country: Citizen of the world whose address is in the U.S.
Current location: Detroit, Michigan
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 65,010

Journal Archives

Unseen Toll: Wages of Millions Seized to Pay Past Debts

Unseen Toll: Wages of Millions Seized to Pay Past Debts
A new study provides the first-ever tally of how many employees lose up to a quarter of their paychecks over debts like unpaid credit card or medical bills and student loans.

by Paul Kiel, ProPublica, and Chris Arnold, NPR, Sep. 15, 2014, 5 a.m.

Back in 2009, Kevin Evans was one of millions of Americans blindsided by the recession. His 25-year career selling office furniture collapsed. He shed the nice home he could no longer afford, but not a $7,000 credit card debt.

After years of spotty employment, Evans, 58, thought he'd finally recovered last year when he found a better-paying, full-time customer service job in Springfield, Mo. But early this year, he opened his paycheck and found a quarter of it missing. His credit card lender, Capital One, had garnished his wages. Twice a month, whether he could afford it or not, 25 percent of his pay — the legal limit — would go to his debt, which had ballooned with interest and fees to over $15,000.

"It was a roundhouse from the right that just knocks you down and out," Evans said.

The recession and its aftermath have fueled an explosion of cases like Evans'. Creditors and collectors have pursued struggling cardholders and other debtors in court, securing judgments that allow them to seize a chunk of even meager earnings. The financial blow can be devastating — more than half of U.S. states allow creditors to take a quarter of after-tax wages. But despite the rise in garnishments, the number of Americans affected has remained unknown.

At the request of ProPublica, ADP, the nation's largest payroll services provider, undertook a study of 2013 payroll records for 13 million employees. ADP's report, released today, shows that more than one in 10 employees in the prime working ages of 35 to 44 had their wages garnished in 2013.

Roughly half of these debtors, unsurprisingly, owed child support. But a sizeable number had their earnings docked for consumer debts, such as credit cards, medical bills and student loans. ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.propublica.org/article/unseen-toll-wages-of-millions-seized-to-pay-past-debts

Chris Hedges: Sacrificing the Vulnerable, From Gaza to America

from truthdig:

Sacrificing the Vulnerable, From Gaza to America

Posted on Sep 14, 2014
By Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges gave this speech Saturday at the Sauk County Fairgrounds in Baraboo, Wis., before a crowd of about 2,000. His address followed one there by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who seems to be preparing to run in the Democratic presidential primaries. The Fighting Bob Fest, the annual event at which they appeared, brings together progressive speakers from around the country and honors Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette (1855-1925), a U.S. senator from Wisconsin who opposed the United States’ entry into World War I. Parts of this talk were drawn from Hedges’ past columns.

I would like to begin by speaking about the people of Gaza. Their suffering is not an abstraction to me. I was the Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times. I spent seven years in the region. I speak Arabic. And for much of that time I was in Gaza, including when Israeli fighter jets and soldiers were attacking it.

I have stood over the bodies, including the bodies of children, left behind by Israeli airstrikes and assaults. I have watched mothers and fathers cradle their dead and bloodied boys and girls in their arms, convulsed by an indescribable grief, shrieking in pitiful cries to an indifferent universe.

And in this charnel house, this open-air prison where 1.8 million people, nearly half of them children, live trapped in an Israeli ghetto, I have witnessed the crimes of occupation—the food shortage, the stifling overcrowding, the contaminated water, the lack of health services, the crippling poverty, the endemic unemployment, the fear and the despair. As I have witnessed this mass of human suffering I have heard from the power elites in Jerusalem and Washington the lies told to justify state terror.
An impoverished, captive people that lack an army, a navy, an air force, mechanized units, drones, artillery and any semblance of command and control do not pose a threat to Israel. And Israel’s indiscriminate use of modern, industrial weapons to kill hundreds of innocents, wound thousands more and make tens of thousands of families homeless is not a war. It is state-sponsored terror and state-sponsored murder. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/sacrificing_the_vulnerable_from_gaza_to_america_20140914

Can You Trust The ‘Natural’ Label?

from Civil Eats:

Can You Trust The ‘Natural’ Label?
By Brie Mazurek on September 12, 2014

If you think the “natural” label means that a food product contains no artificial ingredients, pesticides, antibiotics, or GMOs, you’re mistaken—but you’re not alone. According to a recent Consumer Reports survey, 59% of consumers seek out the natural label, despite the fact that it has little or no meaning in the marketplace and no federal or third-party standards or verification.

We spoke with Urvashi Rangan, PhD, executive director of the Consumer Reports Food Safety & Sustainability Center, to learn more about sneaky food labels and a campaign to ban the term “natural.” On September 19, San Francisco residents can join Consumer Reports’ “American’s Most Wanted Labels” conference to find out which labels you can or can’t trust, and learn about efforts to bring credibility to food labels for animal welfare, fair trade, and sustainability.

Tell us about your work on food labels at Consumer Reports.

We have been looking at the landscape of eco-labels in food for some time now to see which labels really add value and how much. We have spent a lot of time watchdogging the organic label over the last 15 years and working with the USDA grass-fed claim to make sure those standards are meaningful. We’ve always been supportive of the fact that there’s a continuum of sustainability out there, and credible labeling is a way to move the sustainable marketplace.

What does the word “natural” mean on a food product?

The “natural” label on food doesn’t have a whole lot of meaning. On meat, it means nothing artificial is added to the cut of meat itself, but that’s woefully short of consumer expectations. An overwhelming majority say that they think that “natural” means no artificial ingredients and no pesticides—all things one would think a “natural” product ought to be. Poll after poll shows that people think the natural label means more than it does, and recent polling shows that about one-third of consumers think natural and organic mean the same thing, when they don’t. ..............(more)

- See more at: http://civileats.com/2014/09/12/can-you-trust-the-natural-label/#sthash.y5YxcdO7.dpuf

‘For Cinephiles, Netflix Is Less and Less an Option’

via truthdig:

Netflix users seeking rare or less commercially valued titles are finding the company’s streaming and DVD mailer service unequal to their desires, a development that prompts the question of whether technology and free enterprise have led audiences down a dark road to a narrower cultural selection.

At the website of the San Francisco Bay Area’s KQED Arts, a public media associate of NPR and PBS, editor and contributor Jon Brooks tells of his discovery that a movie he rented from the company years ago had become unavailable. Amazon streaming and iTunes didn’t have it either. He would have gone to a local video store, but those had all closed down. The local library was a dead end too. Only after a week of searching, when his wife found the title in another city’s library, was he able to see the movie.

Brooks continues:

The episode was disconcerting. I had started using Netflix around the millennium because it seemed like a great idea with no downside (the eventual disappearance of video stores notwithstanding). I was paying a fortune in late fees at my local disc-o-mat, and Netflix’s so-called “long tail” strategy of amassing a vast array of niche content in addition to popular titles appealed to me, as did having the ability to get what looked to be every single movie ever released on DVD delivered straight to my door. And rarely did Netflix disappoint when there was something I wanted to watch, no matter how esoteric.

… And now it seems, while still nowhere as haphazard as the streaming selection, the company’s once reliably complete DVD selection is becoming less so all the time. After my Sweet Sweetback dilemma, I began to note that some DVDs that used to sit patiently awaiting their turn in my queue had dropped down to the “saved” section, where the time of their availability is listed as “unknown.” I think it is safe to say, you can translate that as “never.” Earlier this year, I mentioned this incredibly shrinking DVD phenomenon to John Taylor, the buyer at San Francisco’s Le Video, and he told me Netflix’s DVD collection was now absent a growing number of significant titles, including a passel of Woody Allen films.

Brooks cites a Netflix PR video indicating that the company “should no longer be looked upon as a massive movie library,” as he writes, but rather, in the company’s language, the “Internet’s largest television network” ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/arts_culture/item/for_cinephiles_netflix_is_less_and_less_an_option_20140914

America’s Distinctly Unequal Playing Fields

from Too Much: A Commentary on Excess and Inequality:

America’s Distinctly Unequal Playing Fields
SEPTEMBER 13, 2014

Teenagers are learning lessons — about inequality — on America’s high school gridirons. When are their elders going to catch on?

By Sam Pizzigati

This weekend, in thousands of communities across the United States, millions of Americans will gather for one of the nation’s most time-honored autumn rituals: the high school football game.

Shoulder pads will thump. Spirals will whistle through the air. Cheerleaders will chant. And economic inequality will be the furthest thing from anybody’s mind.

A mistake. Gridiron savvy won’t determine the outcome of many of the games played this weekend. Inequality will. So suggests some quirky new research from analyst Eric Segal for the Massachusetts-based Class Action.

Segal has matched won-loss records for all the high schools in Eastern Massachusetts with the median incomes of the communities the high schools serve. His number crunching has uncovered a clear pattern. Teams from richer towns regularly win. Teams from poorer towns regularly lose.


Back in 1970, sociologists Sean Reardon and Kendra Bischoff have detailed, 65 percent of America’s families lived in “middle-income” situations, in neighborhoods where incomes ranged from 80 to 125 percent of the median, or most typical, income of the larger metro area.

By 2008, only 43 percent of U.S. families lived in middle-income neighborhoods. ..................(more)

- See more at: http://toomuchonline.org/americas-distinctly-unequal-playing-fields/#sthash.Rhq8H8Gc.dpuf

Graphic showing how money used for police militarization could be spent on infrastructure


Repugs continue their attack on Amtrak

(The Hill) The House is proposing a 40 percent funding cut for Amtrak construction in a new passenger rail bill that was unveiled on Thursday by the chamber’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Amtrak has traditionally received about $1 billion per year from the federal government since its inception in 1971.

Most of the proposed reduction comes in funding for new rail construction projects, which would be reduced from approximately $1.3 billion per year under the last Amtrak appropriations measure to about $770 million annually beginning next year.

The cut would be offset by a slight increase in spending for current train operations to appease Democrats, but Republican leaders on the panel said the end result would still be a funding reduction that would force Amtrak to streamline its operations. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/217411-house-rail-bill-cuts-amtrak-funding-40-percent

With infill stations, older transit agencies extend their reach

from the Transport Politic blog:

With infill stations, older transit agencies extend their reach

A new station on Boston’s Orange Line prepares for opening, but infill stations of its type are all too rare.

Want to know a secret? One of the best ways to increase transit ridership at a reasonable price requires little additional service. It requires no new line extensions. And it can be done to maximize the value of existing urban neighborhoods.

This magic solution comes in the form of the infill station–a new stop constructed along an existing line, between two existing stations. Next week, Boston’s MBTA transit agency plans to open a new stop, Assembly Station, along the Orange Line in Somerville, a dense inner-ring suburb just to the northwest of downtown Boston.

Assembly is the latest in a series of recent infill stations in the U.S. located along older heavy rail lines whose other stations were generally constructed decades ago. Washington, D.C.’s NoMa Metro Station opened in 2004; the San Francisco region’s West Dublin/Pleasanton BART Station followed in 2011. In Boston, new stations have been constructed along the upgraded commuter rail-becoming-regional rail Fairmount Corridor. And Chicago has had success with the opening of two infill stations in 2012, the Morgan Station in the city’s West Loop and the Oakton-Skokie Station in the northern suburbs.

Yet those expansions are exceptions to the rule. Two infill stations are currently planned in Northern Virginia, at Potomac Yard along the Metro in Alexandria and at Potomac Shores along the VRE commuter line, and one new station is under construction along the Green Line in Chicago. ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2014/08/28/with-infill-stations-older-transit-agencies-extend-their-reach/

The marijuana train has left the station, and it's not turning around

from the Detroit Metro Times:

Higher Ground: The marijuana train has left the station, and it's not turning around
By Larry Gabriel

Marijuana has become pretty normal in America.

That doesn't mean that people aren't still getting dragged off to jail for possession. According to FBI estimates, about 750,000 people were arrested for marijuana-related offenses in 2012. The vast majority of them were for simple possession, and although marijuana use is approximately equal among both groups, young African-Americans and Latinos are arrested at rates much higher than whites.

Those arrest numbers speak to a whole different set of social issues other than marijuana use, and as soon as this marijuana thing gets untangled, it will give law enforcement one less way to ensnare people of color in the legal system.

That said, there's a very interesting CivicScience report out now, based on data over the past two years, that shows 58 percent of Americans support legal marijuana that is regulated and taxed like alcohol. Data from the past three months shows 61 percent support. I'll discuss implications of those numbers later. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.metrotimes.com/detroit/higher-ground-it-wont-be-too-long/Content?oid=2245498

“Just Cause” and the Attack on Job Security

from Dollars & Sense:

“Just Cause” and the Attack on Job Security
Is teacher tenure obsolete? Or is it the kind of policy that should protect all workers?


The United States is alone among industrialized countries in allowing workers to be considered “at will” employees and dismissed for any reason—justified or not—unless protected by a collective-bargaining agreement or individual contract. At-will employees have no job security. They can be fired for a mistake, an argument with a supervisor, a critical comment about the enterprise or management, taking a sick day, a complaint about working conditions or pay, or involvement in outside political campaigns—all activities that workers protected by just-cause contract language enjoy with far less fear of losing their jobs.

Employers who are compelled to respect just cause aren’t sitting still. For example, a California judge ruled in June that public-school teacher tenure and seniority rules are unconstitutional. The lawsuit that led to the Vergara v. California decision was financed by multi-millionaire David Welch and backed by a slick PR firm. The suit argued that low-income students performed poorly on tests because of bad teachers who were protected by tenure—not because of school underfunding, large classes, or poverty itself.

The state teachers’ union, the California Teachers Association, noted that the judge ruled against due process rights for teachers because of testimony that “3% of teachers are grossly ineffective,” a statistic the union says was invented. While Vergara v. California is under appeal and only applies to California teachers, the anti-worker forces behind the lawsuit promise more legal assaults on teachers in other states.

The New York Times editorialized in favor of Vergara. “The ruling opens a new chapter in the equal education struggle,” the editors said. “It also underscores a shameful problem that has cast a long shadow over the lives of children, not just in California but in the rest of the country as well.” .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2014/0914wilson.html

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