Obama’s Plan To Reduce College Costs
At the University of Buffalo, President Obama announced his plan to make college more affordable, saying that the country was facing “a crisis in terms of college affordability and student debt.” The plan proposes rating colleges before the beginning of the 2015 school year based on tuition, graduation rates, percentage of lower-income students and the debts/earnings of graduates. The University of Buffalo is a particularly apt choice due to its enormously successful Say Yes program, which offers full tuition to any public or charter school student who is accepted into college.
Obama hopes that starting in 2018 the rankings will be the basis for federal financial aid to students. Currently, almost all federal aid is distributed based on how many students are enrolled at a given college, regardless of how many graduate or how much debt they incur. Tuition makes up half of college revenues (up from a quarter 25 years ago) and has been rising faster than inflation for years. The average graduate has $26,000 in debt, only half of those who begin college graduate in six years, and loan defaults are rising.
States have experimented with similar plans with mixed results, with the most common pitfall being rigid or arbitrary requirements. The programs in Pennsylvania and Washington have been particularly successful, due to their flexible system that rewards schools for each performance indicator.
Today in Whistleblower News
David Miranda, who was detained for 9 hours at Heathrow Airport and had all of his electronics confiscated, won a partial court victory today. The court issued an injunction blocking the government from using or sharing material seized from Miranda, but allowed it to keep examining the data in the interest of national security.
Miranda had been bringing files from Laura Poitras, the documentarian covering Edward Snowden, to Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who broke the stories Snowden leaked. While the UK denies this, it seems clear that its government was using its terrorism powers to bypass the existing routes, with their explicit safeguards, in order to seize journalistic materials. Nevertheless, the UK has opened a criminal investigation into Snowden’s leak to The Guardian.
Meanwhile, after being sentenced to 35 years in prison, Manning requested to be called Chelsea instead of Bradley, to reflect her identification as a woman. She would like to undergo hormone therapy, but the military has said it will not provide it, despite the fact that the Veteran’s Administration supports the right to trans-related healthcare.
The US government has argued that Manning and Snowden should not have leaked the data, but pursued ‘other avenues’ if they were disturbed by the government’s actions. But it often fires those who pursue such avenues.
Justice Department to Sue Texas Over Voter ID Law
Citing the remainder of the Voting Rights Act, Attorney General Eric Holder has announced that the Department of Justice will challenge Texas’ voter ID law, which could lead to 10% of people in 27 Texas counties being banned from voting.
The DOJ will have to prove that the law not only disproportionately targets minorities but that it was the lawmakers’ specific intent to do so. Given that there have already been recorded statements by Texas Republicans admitting as much, this will ideally not be an insurmountable hurdle.
In a separate filing, the DOJ has announced that it will intervene in an ongoing challenge to Texas’ redistricting maps. Holder released a statement, saying, “We will not allow the Supreme Court’s recent decision to be interpreted as open season for states to pursue measures that suppress voting rights.”
Militant Groups Merge in North Africa
Two Islamist groups that had split off from al-Qaeda to fight in Mali have merged, pledging to attack French interests in retaliation for its military intervention in their coup. Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s group, the Masked Men Brigade has joined forces with Mali’s Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) to form Al-Mourabitoun.
Belmokhtar was behind a deadly siege at an Algerian gas plant in January, and the groups have already claimed joint responsibility for raids in May that damaged a uranium mine and killed dozens at a barracks. It is not yet clear who will be the leader.
North Korea Battles Meth Epidemic
A new study published by the North Korea Review says that parts of North Korea are experiencing a crystal meth ‘epidemic’, and “almost every adult in that area had experienced using ice and not just once.” It’s not clear how accurate those numbers are, but in 2010 another study found that meth rates were indeed rising, although not at that level.
North Korea currently produces meth in large, state-run laboratories to sell in China, but with the collapse of the health care industry, many North Koreans began using it to treat health problems because actual medicine is artificially expensive there, while meth is artificially cheap.