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    News Round-Up: Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

    Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

    President Obama intends to discuss raising the minimum wage for some Federal workers in his State of the Union Address tonight; John W. Warner surprises many by endorsing his Democratic successor Mark Warner; and peace talks in the Middle East have led to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreeing to a three year transition period. Meanwhile, legendary folk singer Pete Seeger passed away today and ‘How I Met Your Mother’ will premiere its 200th episode tonight!

    -Gianna & Maura

    Obama to raise minimum wage for some Federal Workers, http://rtvote.com/MpuoSk
    In tonight’s State of the Union Address, President Obama plans to announce his intention of using an executive order to raise the minimum wage for some federal contractors to $10.10 an hour. The White House released a statement saying,“The President is using his executive authority to lead by example, and will continue to work with Congress to finish the job for all Americans by passing the (congressional) bill.” The State of the Union Address will air tonight at 9PM EST.

     Ex-GOP Sen. John Warner Endorses Dem, http://rtvote.com/M9K5MN
    Former Republican Senator John Warner has earned a reputation as a party maverick for bucking conservatives who won control of the GOP during his 30 year tenure in the US Senate. The former senator praised Democrat Mark Warner in his interview with the Associated Press as being a politician who understands the importance of bipartisan solutions. Mark Warner is grateful for his former opponent’s support and lauded John Warner as “The Gold Standard of Virginia”.

    Colorado High School Student Sets Self on fire in Cafeteria, http://rtvote.com/M9OpeJ
    A student at a local Denver high school set himself on fire in the school cafeteria. The unnamed 16 year-old student remains in critical condition as family, friends, school faculty, and police attempt to figure out what led the student to set himself on fire. Yesterday was the latest incident to affect the Denver area school community in recent weeks.

    Bill to Offer an Option to Give Vouchers, http://rtvote.com/1mRTtzT
    Senator Lamar Alexander, who served as Secretary of Education under President George H.W. Bush, is planning to introduce a bill sometime today that would give federal money to the parents of 11 million children from low income families to spend on any type of schooling, as long as it is an accredited institution. Under this legislation, states would be given the option to opt in to the voucher program. About a third of states have already taken steps to redefine public education with a network of vouchers and scholarships. The rollout of Senator Alexander’s bill is seen as being a rallying point for Republicans as they approach mid-term election season.

    Palestinian President Says He Can Accept a 3 year transition period, http://rtvote.com/1dL3U2Z
    President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority said in an interview that he can accept an Israeli military presence in the West Bank for three years as part of a peace deal. Mr. Mahmoud said,“We are willing to allow a third party to take Israel’s place during and after a withdrawal in order to soothe our concerns and Israel’s.”

    Pete Seeger, American Folk singer and songwriter dies at 94- http://rtvote.com/1e4voqq
    Rosie O’Donnell returning to The View as a guest seven years after bitter exit- http://rtvote.com/1hITkOm
    Kate Middleton will be attending The National Portrait Gala- http://rtvote.com/1f7MhOY
    ‘How I Met Your Mother’ will air the 200th episode tonight- http://rtvote.com/1iGUj5j

    Gianna Judkins
    Bio: My name is Gianna Judkins& I'm a proud Angeleno. I'm also a Political Science Major at Howard University. I pride myself in being Michelle Obama's biggest fan and always being "FLOTUS Inspired”! As a Political Science major, my ultimate goal is to one day call 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue my office. I'm a very determined young woman who understands the power of education and value of hard work while striving to achieve my goal of being one of the nation's next great leaders. I'm not that serious all the time though, for fun I enjoying singing in the choir and hanging out with friends.

    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com

    News Round-Up: October 16, 2013

    Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

    An L.A. airport employee is arrested for the dry ice blasts at LAX; two minors are arrested for bullying a 14-year-old into suicide; and Senate resumes control of negotiations with one day to go before the debt deadline hits. Meanwhile, Ke$ha confesses that ghosts haunted her body, and Rihanna’s tweets get a string of people arrested in Thailand.

    -Sandy + Maura


    L.A. airport employee arrested in dry ice blastshttp://rtvote.com/1er3DFr
    Dicarlo Bennett, a 28-year-old employee for the ground handling company Servisair, has been taken into custody for allegedly planting plastic bottles of dry ice on a tarmac and in one of the airport’s employee restrooms last week. Nobody was hurt in either incidents, but the blasts could have seriously injured anyone who was in close proximity. Bennett’s motives are unknown.

    Police chief: 64 Cleveland officers broke rules in shootinghttp://rtvote.com/1gklnGU
    More than 60 police officers will be disciplined for a 23-minute police chase that happened November 29, 2012. Police pursued a speeding car and opened fire after they thought they heard a gunshot and saw a gun in the car, although no weapon was ever found. Two unarmed people were shot and killed in the officers’ hailstorm of 137 bullets.

    Thefts from nursing home trust funds target the elderlyhttp://rtvote.com/1gknkmK
    The problem of resident trust funds being stolen or mismanaged is a growing problem. Employees or administrators at U.S. nursing homes or other long-term care institutions have taken large sums of money from trust funds. However, these crimes of trust fund theft are not easy to detect, and they are relatively easy to carry out because of the lack of safeguards in the system.

    Shutdown, Day 16: Can nation avert default?http://rtvote.com/1fCAslM
    Just ONE day away from the debt deadline! So, what’s going on in DC right now? Here are some top highlights: the Senate has resumed control of negotiations after the House GOP pulled their bill yesterday; Fitch Ratings, one of the largest debt-rating companies, has threatened to possibly downgrade the U.S.’s AAA bond rating; the Pew Research Center has released a new poll that says 51% of Americans think that raising the debt limit by tomorrow is essential to avoid economic crisis. Will Congress reach an agreement before it’s too late? Guess we’ll have to wait and see…

    Sheriff: Taunting post leads to arrests in Rebecca Sedwick bullying deathhttp://rtvote.com/1erd0oI
    12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick committed suicide last month by jumping off the top of an abandoned concrete plant. The bullying Sedwick endured by a 14-year-old girl and another 12-year-old girl allegedly prompted her to end her life. The girls were charged with stalking for allegedly harassing Sedwick at school and online. The 14-year-old posted a taunting Facebook message after Sedwick’s death, prompting police to arrest her.


    Bruce Schneier discusses privacy in an information age being fostered by the government and private companies in “Your life, under constant surveillance,” http://rtvote.com/1gktGTb

    LZ Granderson reminds us that before we call the men and women of Congress “idiots”, we should remember we put them there in “We Created – and Deserve – the Idiots in Washington,” http://rtvote.com/1fCPpEB


    Ke$ha Reveals Ghosts Haunted Her Body, http://rtvote.com/1erhg7A

    Was Britney Spears’ Body Airbrushed in the “Work Bitch” Music Video? See the Before and After,http://rtvote.com/197kL13

    Ivanka Trump Gives Birth to a Baby Boy, http://rtvote.com/1fCQLis

    Rihanna’s Tweets Leave Trail of Arrests After Thailand Visit, http://rtvote.com/1gkwtMb


    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com

    Issue Analysis: College Affordability and the Growing Cost of Education

    Thursday, August 29th, 2013

    The problem of college affordability is not a new preoccupation in America. In fact, scholars have been tracing this growing issue since the late 1990s. Today the major components of the problem remain the same, concerns about: the growing cost of education, student indebtedness and the financialization of higher education.

    The Growing Cost of Education:

    It is impossible to deny that the cost of education has increased over the years. According to the US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of attending a 4-year, either public or private, institution doubled between 1990 and 2010. And according to the research, the cost also doubled for the same data set between 1980 and 1990. The difference between the 1990s and now, however, is context. Over the last decade our economy has suffered through a national terror attack, two wars, numerous natural disasters, labor outsourcing via globalization, a housing market collapse, a recession, and we finally became cognizant of corporate deregulation and the extent to which corporations were extracting economic rents from our economy. These events, especially the latter ones, have directly contributed to the ever-growing income divide in our nation, which compounds the college affordably question, including the lower and middle class’ ability to pay.

    Institutions claim that the cost of education is rising because state and federal governments have slashed spending on higher education and as a result, that cost has been transferred to students. While this is true in most places across America, there are other factors that subscribe to rising costs. Athletic programs, extravagant recreational facilities, and specialized food services have all contributed to growing costs. Moreover, basic economic theory tells us that colleges have an incentive to limit access to their universities by keeping costs high. When a product, like higher education, is costly, demand is higher than universities that are not as expensive. In this way, universities can use an economic factor, like cost, to increase their selectivity.

    Additionally, non-classroom costs, like administrative overhead and payrolls, have ballooned, adding another line item to student’s college bills. Professor salaries have not increased with administrative salaries and higher college costs, which makes us question a university’s intent and, what appears to be, unbalanced fiscal allocations.

    From a policy standpoint, Congress needs to take steps to ensure that colleges are held accountable for their soaring costs. The value-add of an expensive college should be palpable immediately after a student graduates from the institution in the form of transferable skills, job prospects, and career guidance. But, instead, universities are spending on ostentatious dining and athletic facilities for the student’s in-residence use, a venture that has marginal impact on a student’s return on investment post-graduation. Policymakers can financially incentivize universities to tie their costs to their post-graduates’ success levels. This will 1) hold colleges accountable for their costs and 2) improve college effectiveness with emphasis on post-graduate opportunities.

    The key to understanding the growing cost of education is internalizing that higher education is a business that provides a specific, and in most cases, covenanted product. Like all consumer products the government and the citizenry should hold educational enterprises accountable for the effectiveness of their product.

    Amanda Hall
    Bio: Amanda earned a B.A. in Classics and a minor in International Studies from Dartmouth College. After graduating, Amanda joined the Teach For America New York Corps and concurrently earned an M.A in Education at Fordham University. She taught 6th-8th grade Special Education in the South Bronx. From this experience, Amanda became deeply invested not only in education equality but also income equality and civic engagement. This summer Amanda is working closely with the National Political Director of Rock the Vote. In the Fall, she will begin a dual Master’s degree in International and World History at Columbia University and the London School of Economics.
    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com

    Vacation for Congress, Double the Interest Rate for Us

    Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

    Millennials everywhere were dealt a harsh blow today. As of July 1, interest rates on federal student loans doubled, from 3.4 to 6.8%. This is a tremendously heavy burden that will only add to the over $1 trillion in debt that the 38 million Americans who take out student loans have to pay back. Polarized politics on Capitol have once again barred progress and compromise – two things that we need to ensure a bright future for young Americans.

    The cost of getting an education no longer comes down to just dollars and cents. Debt has become unmanageable as job growth continues to be weak, and tuition costs continue to rise. In the past, many students’ debt has been less than their starting salaries, meaning that it could be paid off in a few years. However, the rising cost of college has saddled Millennials with debt that exceeds car and credit card debt. Due to the staggering amount of loans they need to pay back, young people are forced to make life-altering decisions that they wouldn’t have had to make if they were not crippled by student debt. Students are putting off marriage and buying their own cars. More are staying in their parents’ houses because they cannot afford their own mortgages. Having kids and starting families is out of the question for young adults trying to grapple with debt. Many students will have to turn down acceptances from dream schools in favor of a college that is more affordable. Starting small businesses and pursuing jobs in public service that may not pay as much is now too risky, even though we need people to fill those roles in our economy and society. Basically, dreams are being shut down or put on hold, because student debt has spiraled out of control.

    Although the loan interest rate increases will not affect those that have been taken out before July 1, over 7 million students are predicted to take out Stafford loans in the coming school year alone. Before the summer recess begins, Congress has one more chance to approve an extension of the 3.4% interest rate loans. Another vote will take place in the Senate on July 10.

    Congress, you have a responsibility to represent the interests of the American people. The Millennial Generation is the future; we are the ones who will be working to drive the economy and society forward. It is unacceptable that we are the ones being penalized for pursuing higher education and wanting to contribute to society. This is more important than political differences. These are the livelihoods and futures of the next generation of working Americans that are at risk. Many of us cannot afford the extra $1000 per loan. As US citizens, we have the right to pursue the lives we want and make major life decisions at the times we want. We ask that you put aside your differences to help ensure that the bright futures of students stay bright, and not burdened by debt.

    Bio: My name is Jen Yam and I am a rising senior at Duke University pursuing a public policy major and neuroscience minor. I am a New York native and love music (both playing and listening) and reading. I am working in the political department here at Rock the Vote for the summer.

    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com

    The Supreme Court and the Affirmative Action Ruling

    Monday, June 24th, 2013

    The Supreme Court has ruled on the affirmative action case of Fisher v. University of Texas today, and the result is not earth-shattering, but important nonetheless: the Justices have sent the case back down to the lower courts to be reevaluated. The purpose of this move was to allow the lower courts to scrutinize the University of Texas use of the affirmative action policy and decide whether the University was using these policies to solely as a last resort to create a diverse student body. Although no major decision was made today, and universities will be allowed to continue their affirmative action policies for the time being, the implications of today’s decision mean that colleges will need to be much more cautious in their justification for their use of affirmative action. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the decision that public universities may only employ affirmative action if “no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the benefits of educational diversity.” The Supreme Court did not produce a ruling on whether University of Texas adhered to these criteria, and this case is far from over. The girl who is responsible for bringing the case against the university is Abigail Fisher, a 23 year old who had applied to the University of Texas in 2008 but was rejected. She claims that many people in her class who were less qualified were admitted on the basis of race, and that the University discriminated against her simply because she was not a minority. Fisher did not initially decide to sue the University, but was recruited by Edward Blum, the head of a non-profit called Project on Fair Representation. He had been looking for someone to be the face of a case against race-based admissions policies at the University of Texas, and Fisher fit the description. The University of Texas is a special case because they have a policy that allows students in the top 10% of the class automatic admission. It voted to reinstate affirmative action in 2007. However, Blum argued that the university had been able to meet its goal of academic diversity without affirmative action, and the addition of further race-based decision making was unnecessary and discriminatory. The future of affirmative action is uncertain, but what is definite is that whatever the decision, it will change the way universities assess any admissions decisions based on race.

    Bio: My name is Jen Yam and I am a rising senior at Duke University pursuing a public policy major and neuroscience minor. I am a New York native and love music (both playing and listening) and reading. I am working in the political department here at Rock the Vote for the summer.

    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com