Martin O’Malley Takes Aim At Wall Street, Student Debt

omalley1Former Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland, a Democrat, began his presidential campaign in May with a speech that led some to call him the financial industry’s “public enemy number one,” writes Business Insider.

O’Malley revealed his policy proposals today, Thursday, July 9th.  He is continuing to take aim at Wall Street, and – in other news – he also looks to eradicate student debt.

Media sources immediately began portraying the situation as a “cat-fight” between O’Malley and candidate Bernie Sanders.

According to his deputy campaign manager Lis Smith, O’Malley plans to release, along with the letter, a “detailed Wall Street white paper that continues in (the) mold of O’Malley leading with bold, progressive policy agenda,” writes Business Insider.

In conjunction with the policy rollout, O’Malley is sending an open letter to “megabanks.”  In the letter, O’Malley directly blamed the Wall Street “megabanks” for the 2008 financial crisis and warned, “As President, I have no plans to let up on you.”

In his letter, O’Malley describes the “megabanks” as a “grave threat” to the US economy with executives who are “somehow classified as too big to prosecute and too big to jail.”

“I know that many of you have tried to dismiss and undermine my calls for stronger reforms as ‘anti-capitalist,'” O’Malley wrote. “Let me be clear — the ongoing reckless behavior of your megabanks isn’t capitalism — it’s the antithesis of it. True capitalism requires a level playing field on which everyone plays by the same set of rules. True capitalism requires competition. True capitalism means that just as businesses and banks can succeed – they can also fail.”

“Today, your — too-big-to-fail, too-big-to-manage, and too-big-to-jail — megabanks pose an enormous risk to the financial system, the economy, and American families,” O’Malley wrote. “They are so big and so interconnected with the entire financial system that the failure of one or more of them could cause the collapse of the entire US economy.”

In related news, O’Malley has made debt-free college a priority.

He has put several proposals on the table to make that happen, including tuition freezes, making it possible for students to refinance student loans for lower rates, basing re-payment on income, and increasing funding to schools.

(Updated article)

‘Bloodbath?’ Huge Layoffs At Chicago Public Schools

The mayor of Chicago and the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) announced 1,400 layoffs and $200 million in cuts to meet a teachers’ pension deadline.   WLS writes that teachers and parents plan to protest at City Hall.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel delayed a $634 million pension payment until the eleventh-hour on Tuesday, waiting to see any relief would come from state lawmakers. It never came, writes ABC7 News in Chicago.

The mayor and Interim CPS CEO Jesse Ruiz outlined on Wednesday who would be laid off and where cuts would be made.

Ruiz said most of the 1,400 jobs cut were in administration and special education programs.

Supposedly very few teachers were laid off.

Funding for elementary sports teams was cut, and the facility maintenance budget was reduced 25 percent. Highs schools are starting 45 minutes later, writes ABC7. The mayor said schools will open on time in the fall and class sizes will not be affected.

“These cuts will hurt the most vulnerable students in the city of Chicago, who are the most vulnerable students in the state,” the Vice President of the Chicago Teachers Union Jesse Sharkey said, according to ABC7 News.

(Updated report)$200m-in-cuts/823307/

Romney Voters Like The Duggars More Than The Obamas

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People who voted for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in the last election have a higher opinion of the scandal-plagued Duggar family than of President Barack Obama, writes Talking Points Memo.

A survey by the firm Public Policy Polling found that 67 percent of respondents who voted for Romney in 2012 said they had a higher opinion of the family from channel TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting.” Just 12 percent of Romney voters said they had a higher opinion of the President than the Duggars.

Black And Blue Dress Highlights Domestic Violence

Recently, the “optical illusion dress” that came to worldwide attention was used in a Salvation Army public service announcement in South Africa.  The announcement is targeting domestic violence against women and it uses the viral success of “The Dress.”

The ad featured a woman in a white and gold dress with a caption that reads, “Why is it so hard to see black and blue?”

The caption in the ad further reads: “The only illusion is if you think it was her choice. One in 6 women are victims of abuse. Stop abuse against women.”

The advertisement features the logo for Carehaven, a home for abused women and their children run by the Salvation Army.

The charity says Carehaven has helped more than 5,000 people.

Ireland/Davenport, the South African advertising agency behind the image, told BuzzFeed News in an emailed statement, “For the past few days the internet has been swarming with comments about ‘the dress’ – overall people have been commenting how they hate the fact that an insignificant thing like this could take priority on the internet over more pressing topics such as abuse.”

The agency’s creative team created it within 24 hours and then approached the Salvation Army to ask if they would like to put their name to ad.

“After the idea had been cracked by the team there was no time to spare. We approached the Salvation Army and they were nothing but helpful and overjoyed to help us get their message out there,” the agency said. “With the help of favors from suppliers and production we managed to create and publish the ad in a day.”

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Library Helps The Homeless

Hedberg Public Library staff in Janesville, Wisconsin, is serious about its mission to serve all residents, including those who are homeless, according to the GazetteXtra.

The staff provide a safe daytime haven so long as everybody follows the rules by respecting others’ rights and the library itself, said Michelle Dennis, circulation director of the library.

“We are very clear about the expectations of behavior for everybody who uses the library, and we try to restrict or limit people’s access only if their behavior warrants that,” said Dennis.

On most days, about a dozen homeless people use the services.

Thursday was a particularly nasty day with its mix of cold and snow, and winter clothing piled on a corner chair served as home base for a homeless man who spends his days at the library.  He is welcome at the library, and volunteers heat his lunch in the ground level coffee shop, said Bryan McCormick, library director.

Sometimes, someone just wants a quiet place to sit, Dennis said. Other times, they need resource materials.

The ground floor coffee shop is a popular place to hang out, along with a stretch of windows along the Rock River or in the lobby near the elevators.

Homeless people typically don’t create problems, especially since GIFTS (God Is Faithful Temporary Shelter) Men’s Shelter opened in Janesville, said Dennis.

GIFTS rotates nightly shelters for men between churches during the cold months. In November—the latest figures available—GIFTS served 51 guests with 727 shelter nights.

When GIFTS is at capacity, staff arranges sleeping elsewhere, such as in Madison or Walworth County shelters.

Md. Lawmakers Call For Crude Oil Train Shipment Risk Assessment, More Railroad Transparency

Maryland lawmakers concerned about increasingly common rail shipments of crude oil through Maryland are calling for the state to conduct a full assessment of the risks and for railroads to be more transparent about their operations, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Norfolk-Southern train transporting crude oil

CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern bring train shipments of crude oil into Maryland, including to a barge terminal in South Baltimore’s Fairfield area and through Cecil County on the way to refineries in Delaware.

Legislation filed last week in Annapolis, Md. would require the state’s health and environment departments to establish statewide accident prevention, emergency response and contingency plans in the case of a major railroad disaster involving crude oil. It also would require both railroads to disclose more information about their crude shipments to the public.

Recently, a recent derailment of a CSX crude oil train during a snowstorm in West Virginia burned one home to the ground, forced hundreds of others to be evacuated, shuttered water treatment plants and sparked concern about pollution to the nearby Kanawha River, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Under a federal law that took effect in May, railroads are required to disclose to local jurisdictions the volumes, routes and frequency of all Bakken crude-oil shipments that are more than 1 million gallons.  However, in the past, much of that information has been unavailable to the public in Maryland.

Chris Christie Waging 23 Court Battles To Keep State Documents Secret: Mother Jones

PHOTO: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during a news conference, Jan. 9, 2014, at the Statehouse in Trenton.

According to Mother Jones, media outlets have been forced to sue to obtain even routinely disclosed information, such as payroll data.

Rather than release documents connected to Bridge-gate, pay-to-play allegations, possible ethics violations, and the out-of-state trips Christie has made while looking at a run for president, Chris Christie’s office and several state agencies have waged costly court battles.

As the 2016 presidential primary race draws closer, and Christie considers jumping in, his administration is fighting 23 different open records requests in court.

“The track record is abysmal,” says Jennifer Borg, general counsel for the North Jersey Media Group.

Her organization, which publishes The Record, has sued the state for public documents a half-dozen times since Christie took office. When a judge determines that the state withheld records illegally—which happens frequently—her group wins legal fees. As of September 2014, Christie’s administration had paid $441,000 to North Jersey Media Group and other media outlets for records. And that doesn’t count the cost of government lawyers’ time.

The fight has become expensive for the state because when newspapers go to court for these records, they usually win. But winning doesn’t automatically produce the sought-after records.

“We can and do beat them in court. But as long as they’re appealing—I don’t want to call it a Pyrrhic victory, but we’re not going to get the records,” says Walter Luers, an attorney who helped a transparency project run by the state Libertarian Party sue for public access for Christie’s travel expenses.

“Appeals take two to three years. We’re already into the presidential elections. By the time we get these records, Christie could have a new address.”

Christie’s reluctance to let these records go is understandable. On Tuesday, for example, The New York Times published an investigation of expensive trips, sponsored by donors and foreign leaders, that the governor has taken abroad. Some of those accounts were based on public documents that local newspapers obtained through lawsuits.

NRA Tries To Get Involved In Schools In South Carolina

According to Think Progress, “Legislation proposed last month by three members of the South Carolina legislature would require public school teachers in the state to spend three weeks each year talking about the virtues of the Second Amendment — as that amendment is understood by the National Rifle Association.

“The bill requires all South Carolina public schools to ‘provide instruction in the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution for at least three consecutive weeks during one grading period in each academic year.’ Moreover, ‘the State Superintendent of Education shall adopt a curriculum developed or recommended by the National Rifle Association or its successor organization'”