• U.S. News
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    In Louisiana, Private Disaster Relief Outperforms the Government

    The recent flooding that hit Louisiana is the worst natural disaster to hit the United States since Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey in 2012. So far we know that at least 13 are dead and tens of thousands were left homeless in the flooding. Even worse, most of those affected do not have flood insurance. Up to $21 billion worth of housing stock was wiped out by the deluge of rain.

    The recovery will be long and difficult in one of the poorest states in the country. There is the challenge of finding employment and housing for all these displaced people. Given the fact that Louisiana is a hot and humid state most of the year, there will also be the issues of dealing with mold and increased injuries as people try to rebuild.

  • U.S. News
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    Gimme a Break! IRS Tax Loophole Can Reward Excessive Water Use in Drought-stricken West

    Experts fear tax deductions for water use as a “depleted asset” could actually worsen the crisis as rivers and reservoirs dry up.

    ProPublica’s reporting on the water crisis in the American West has highlighted any number of confounding contradictions worsening the problem: Farmers are encouraged to waste water so as to protect their legal rights to its dwindling supply in the years ahead; Las Vegas sought to impose restrictions on water use while placing no checks on its explosive population growth; the federal government has encouraged farmers to improve efficiency in watering crops, but continues to subsidize the growing of thirsty crops such as cotton in desert states like Arizona.

  • Financial
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    Fight for $15 plans next steps forward at national convention

    Thousands converged in Richmond, Virginia over the weekend to participate in the Fight For $15’s first-ever national convention. Central to the two-day gathering was the historic Richmond Resolution, a statement of purpose and strategy that members approved unanimously on August 13. The convention culminated on Saturday, as 8,000 people marched in sweltering heat to demonstrate their support for the resolution and their determination to see their agenda through the remainder of election season.

    From the start, it was clear that organizers would emphasize the intersectionality of racial and economic justice. According to Fight for $15 national organizer Kendall Fells, the choice of Richmond for the convention underscored this framework. “We chose Richmond because it’s the onetime capital of the Confederacy,” he told the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “and we want to draw links between the way workers are treated today and the racist history of the United States.”

  • U.S. News
    Image Source: Kevin Dooley, Flickr, Creative Commons
Paper money
    New Jersey Legislators Move to Reform Aggressive Student Loan Program

    The move is the latest action to rein in the agency, whose loans have left families financially ruined.

    New Jersey lawmakers have announced a series of measures addressing student debt issues this week, including one bill aimed at reforming the state’s controversial student loan program.

    The measure would require the state agency that administers the loan program to offer income-driven repayment for its struggling borrowers, bringing the loans closer in line with the federal government’s loan program.

  • Financial
    Image Source: Pixabay.com
    Why Luxury TVs Are Affordable when Basic Health Care Is Not

    Imagine this. You are feeling under the weather. You pull out your smartphone and click the Rx app. A nurse arrives in 20 minutes at your home. He gives you a blood test and recommends to the doctor that she prescribe a treatment. It is sent to the CVS down the street, which delivers it to your door in 20 minutes. The entire event cost $20.

    Sounds nuts? Not so much. Not if health care were a competitive industry. As it is, medical care prices are up 105% in the last 20 years. This contrasts with the television industry, which is selling products that have fallen 96% in the same period.

  • U.S. News
    Image Source: Fibonacci Blue, Flickr, Creative Commons
March for Sandra Bland
    ‘A Vision for Black Lives’ is a vision for everyone

    On August 1, the Movement for Black Lives, with support from dozens of related organizations, issued its vision of a transformed United States that could realize racial justice. The vision is a major step forward in coherence and clarity for a still-young grassroots insurgency, and deserves the attention of allies everywhere.

    As you would expect from the movement’s origins, the document leads with the need to stop the institutionalized practices and justifications for violence against black people. The writers place black queer women, trans, unemployed and incarcerated youth at the center since those groups are a margin within the marginalized black community.

  • Texas
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    No Ruling in Campus Carry Court Challenge

    A federal judge took no action Thursday on a request by three University of Texas at Austin professors to temporarily block Texas’ campus carry law, saying he won’t give his initial ruling until at least next week.

    But the case against gained a new wrinkle at a hearing Thursday, with the professors’ lawyers now adding a claim that UT-Austin’s gun policies are too vague to be enforced.

    It remains to be seen whether the challenge will go anywhere. Lawyers on the professors’ side admitted in court that their claims wade into uncharted legal waters.

  • Politics
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    US Politics? No, Thanks. Pass the Tomatoes.

    As a child, I hated tomatoes. I couldn’t understand how anyone could enjoy them. My grandmother grew the red fruit in her garden, and every summer I quietly despaired as raw tomatoes made appearance after appearance on the dinner table. The sweet but tangy flavor made my nose wrinkle, and the drippy pulp reminded me of the innards of a human heart—or at least how I imagined they look.

    As an adult, I now live in the land of gazpacho, La Tomatina and pa amb tomàquet, and have grown to love the sweet but tangy flavor and even the drippy pulp.

  • U.S. News
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(Unrelated Surgery)
    How the Zika Narrative About Puerto Rico Explains US Colonialism

    The natives are in “chaos.” The “war against Zika” has been “a failure.” A governor’s adviser left his position “in disgust,” and went to vacation in Spain. Disease is rampant. “Some” has been done, “sometimes effectively.” Mosquitoes “breed” in old tires. There are no “cutting-edge plans” to avert the chaos. As “a last resort” the CDC comes to the rescue with the insecticide naled: but, oh, wait, naled is toxic. The natives “rebelled” against the use of naled, and have accused the US of “colonialism” (yes, in quotes!). Ignorant, rebellious, pregnant women do not want to use repellent to protect their babies. What “a horror story.”This narrative dates, not from the period of the 1898 Spanish-American War, during which the United States invaded and colonized Puerto Rico, together with Cuba, the Philippines, and Guam. This narrative, rather, forms part of a story published in the July 30, 2016 edition of the New York Times. It immediately brought to mind those political cartoons that appeared during the Spanish-American War, when the US media played a pivotal role in presenting Uncle Sam as the savior of the half-naked, infantile, natives of the diseased and poverty-stricken tropics.

    “In the NYT story, about the Zika epidemic in Puerto Rico, the imperial gaze is clear. The story also contradicts itself.”

    In the NYT story, about the Zika epidemic in Puerto Rico, the imperial gaze is clear. The story also contradicts itself: for if no one is doing anything on the island, why is the fact that women are taking measures against the Zika virus, and the possibility of having babies with microcephaly, cited as one of the reasons for the decrease in the birth rate?

  • Texas
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    Jeff Wood Never Killed Anyone, But Texas Plans to Execute Him

    A small-town Texan, Danny Wood is quick to tell you he’s not against the death penalty — but he doesn’t think the state should execute his son. After all, Jeff Wood never killed anyone.

    Early on Jan. 2, 1996, Jeff Wood sat in a truck outside a Kerrville gas station while his friend Daniel Reneau went inside to steal a safe said to be full from the holiday weekend, according to court documents. When the clerk, Kriss Keeran, didn’t comply or respond to threats, Reneau shot him dead.

    Reneau was sentenced to death and executed in 2002. On Aug. 24, Wood’s own execution is scheduled. He was sentenced to death under Texas’ felony murder statute, commonly known as the law of parties, which holds that anyone involved in a crime resulting in death is equally responsible, even if they weren’t directly involved in the actual killing.