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    News Round-Up: October 29, 2013

    Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

    Hawaii is up next to legalize gay marriage; an official review on NSA programs is underway; and social media sites criticize tasteless blackface and Trayvon Martin costumes. Meanwhile, the Jonas Brothers break up, and Julianne Hough receives some intense criticism for her offensive Halloween costume.

    -Sandy + Maura


    Hawaii governor expects gay marriage bill to pass ‘within week’,http://rtvote.com/1f1FWUw
    Hawaii’s legislature is expected to pass a bill legalizing gay marriage “within a week or so.” The state’s House of Representatives will pass the bill on Thursday if it passes Senate; both chambers have Democratic majorities. Governor Neil Abercrombie stated that he hopes the bill will pass before January, at the very latest.

    White House: Review will address global NSA concernshttp://rtvote.com/1gXYp8Q
    As more nations become enraged by NSA’s spying programs, the White House has assured the public that the collection of data on allies will not continue. A review of these programs is currently in the works, and a report on the review will be due by the end of the year. Spain is the latest country that has joined in on protests against the U.S.’s surveillance tactics; others include Germany, France, Brazil, and Mexico.

    Trick-or-treating takes a tasteless turnhttp://rtvote.com/1g9uU2E
    Halloween is right around the corner, and so are some of the most offensive costumes in Halloween history. Some of the more tasteless trick-or-treaters are donning Ariel Castro costumes, blackface costumes, and even Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman costumes. There has been a backlash on social media sites (rightfully so) against such getups, and the Utah Jazz and Julianne Hough have received such criticism.

    5 killed in Dallas-area shootings; suspect arrestedhttp://rtvote.com/1f1LVZx
    Police have arrested Charles Everett Brownlow, Jr., 36, for killing five people in a shooting spree in the small town of Terrell, Texas. The murders started at 5 PM Monday, and Brownlow was captured and arrested early Tuesday. The victims have not been officially identified.

    Report: White House knew plans would be canceled under ACA,http://rtvote.com/1gY57eY
    About 50%-75% of 14 million consumers who buy health insurance individually will have their plans cancelled in the next year because their current policies fail to meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act. Initially, the White House said that policies in effect as of March 23, 2010, could be kept even if they did not meet the requirements of the new healthcare law. The Department of Health and Human Services later narrowed that provision. NBC News reports that the Obama administration has known for three years that people’s insurance would be canceled. The White House has responded that those whose policies are voided will be automatically shifted to plans with better protections. Additionally, they claim that nothing in the Affordable Care Act forces people out of their plans, but the failure of some plans to meet the new minimum standards should be expected.


    George Clooney and John Prendergast discuss what should be done to stop the chaos in Sudan in “Sudan could become a second Syria,” http://rtvote.com/1f1Puij

    Errol Louis talks about Banksy’s insensitive slam against New Yorkers and Americans in “Banksy’s insult shows he’s clueless about New York,” http://rtvote.com/19PKcV9


    Julianne Hough Goes Blackface as Orange is the New Black Character for Halloween Costume, http://rtvote.com/1gY8ouS

    Jonas Brothers Break Up: “It was a Unanimous Decision,” http://rtvote.com/1gY8H8U

    Dax Shepard Doesn’t Have a Wedding Ring, Says It Cost Him $142 to Marry Kristen Bell,http://rtvote.com/1gY9t63

    Adam Levine Says Fiancée Behati Prinsloo Made Him Believe in Marriage,http://rtvote.com/1gY9R4i


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

    A Visit to the White House: Signing the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act into Law

    Monday, August 12th, 2013

    On Friday, I accompanied the National Political Director of Rock the Vote, Amanda Brown, to the White House to watch President Obama sign the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act into law. We arrived at the White House in the early afternoon, swiftly moved through security, and proceeded to the West Wing where we were cordially greeted by White House staff. After giving up our cell phones, we were ushered into the Roosevelt room, where we mingled with Senators, advocates, and students who supported the bill.  Along with meeting Senators Brian Schatz (Hawaii) and Angus King (Maine), I had the pleasure of meeting my own homestate Senator, Dick Durban (Illinois). After chatting it up with the group, the White House staff directed us into a small corridor that connected the Roosevelt room to the President’s office. There, we waited for the President to open the door and welcome us into the Oval Office. He greeted us with a pleasant “Hello there!” and shook each of our hands as we introduced ourselves. Thereafter, we surrounded the desk and watched the President sign his name on the bill, one pen at a time. Over the cacophony of cameras snapping photos, the President made jokes mentioning that it felt really good to sign a bipartisan bill. It isn’t something he’s done in a while, “hint, hint,” he urged. We concluded our visit by taking a photo with the President and doing an interview with White House staff.

    The student loan bill is a bipartisan bill that links student loan rates to the market’s interest rates. As the economy improves, the present rates which are 3.9% for undergraduates and 5.4% for graduate students, will also increase but will be capped at 8.25%. When Congress failed to come to a consensus in late July, student loan rates doubled to more than 6% with no foresight on what the interest rate forecast would look like in coming years.

    As a graduate student with undergraduate and graduate loans, the outcome of this bill and subsequent congressional conversations directly affect me. This bill is not ideal – as a self-interested student, I want the lowest interest rate possible. As the economy starts improving, my rates will increase and that’s unsettling! An interest rate increase only becomes warranted when the job market shows the same improvement that economy shows. And in the last few months we haven’t seen that correlation. Instead, what we’ve seen is an increase in economic growth and recovery coupled with relative stagnation in the job market. Fortunately, the interest cap is helpful because it allows students like me to envision our worst-case loan-debt scenario and make risk-adjusted financial decisions accordingly. From a historical perspective the student loan bill is symbolic for two reasons: First, it creates a space for long overdue conversations about the student debt crisis, college affordability, and educational equality. Second, this example of bipartisan support and congressional collaboration represents a glimmer of hope for citizens who have found themselves disenchanted with the democratic process because of partisanship and months of gridlock on the Hill.

    Amanda Hall
    Bio: Originally from Hyde Park, a neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago, Amanda traded city life for greener pastures when she moved to New Hampshire to attend Dartmouth College. At Dartmouth, Amanda earned a B.A. in Classics and a minor in International Studies. As an undergraduate, she traveled around the world and received a series of fellowship awards for her interests in academic research. 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 our nation’s poorest congressional district. 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

    The Aloha State has spoken

    Monday, September 20th, 2010

    On Saturday Hawaiian voters went to the polls to weigh in during a particularly competitive primary season. At stake: one senate seat, the governorship, and two seats in the House of Representatives.

    Long time incumbent Senator Daniel Inouye won the Democratic nomination with 82% of the vote. Inouye will be facing Republican Campbell Cavasso, who served three consecutive terms in the Hawaii House of Representatives.

    In the gubernatorial race, Duke Aiona won the Republican nomination with a sweeping 93% of the vote. Former 11-term Representative for Hawaii’s 1st congressional district, Neil Abercrombie, won the Democratic nomination for governor with 59% of the vote in a five-way Democratic primary. Abercrombie faced off with Honolulu Mayor and former rival Mufi Hannemann, who came in with 37% of the vote.

    Abercrombie resigned from the House to run for governor, leaving his seat in the 1st congressional district open. Charles Djou, who won the Republican nomination with 93% of the vote, will face Democrat Colleen Hanabusa in the general election for Abercrombie’s former seat.

    In Hawaii’s 2nd District, Democrat Mazie Hirono won with 75% of the vote. The Republican nomination is still at large with votes split between former Navy pilot John Willoughby and television news anchor Ramsay Puanani Wharton.

    Seeing as Republicans have held the Hawaii governorship for the past eight years, it will be interesting to see how voters respond to both candidates in November particularly after such competitive primaries throughout the state.

    You can see all the election results here.

    Amanda Pagay

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