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More $ For Student Loans

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Yesterday, the President proposed to lower the percentage of one’s income you must pay on your federal student loans. Currently, payments on student loans are capped at 15 percent of income, and the new rate would be 10%. It is a fine idea, and coupled with the President’s earlier proposal to get banks out of the student loan business, where they make a risk-free windfall at taxpayer expense, it shows the kind of below-the-radar good policies the administration is pursuing.

He needs to go further. I know that the centerpiece of his state of the Union speech tomorrow night is evidently going to be a freeze on domestic discretionary spending. But, he should find some programs to kill, preferably in the districts of those who opposed health care reform, and pump the money into additional funding for college loan programs. Acknowledging the need to restrain government spending should never entail eating your seed corn, and investments in America’s higher education system undoubtedly reaps rewards for years to come.

Jail time for SOA activists

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A press release from SOA Watch:

On Monday, January 25, 2010, U.S. Magistrate G. Mallon Faircloth sentenced three human rights advocates to six months in federal prison for carrying a protest against the School of the Americas onto the Fort Benning military base in Georgia. This school, re-named the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, is a controversial U.S. Army training school for Latin American soldiers. ...

The "SOA 4" are:

Nancy Gwin, long-time activist from Syracuse, New York - sentenced to six months in prison

Father Louie Vitale, veteran and priest from Oakland, CA - sentenced to six months in prison

Ken Hayes, SOA Watch Council member from Austin, TX - sentenced to six months in prison

Michael Walli, a member of the Catholic Worker movement from Washington, DC refused to appear for the trial in Georgia. Walli had told the court during his November arraignment that he would not pay any bail and that he would not voluntarily return for the trial. "I walk out and it's goodbye" Walli told Judge Mallon Faircloth. Michael Walli made good on his promise and on Monday, Judge Mallon Faircloth issued a warrant for Michael Walli's arrest.

Flawed democracy, so let's put even more money into politics

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I'm still huffing about last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision effectively taking the lid off corporate campaign spending. Some people who follow these matters more closely than do I think the ruling won't make matters much worse than they already are. Okay, maybe they are right; I suspect they are not. But who knows?

But I do want to share with you a few paragraphs from the great, and apparently, soon to retire, Justice John Paul Stevens who wrote for the dissenters:

Benedict and the Jews

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Pope Benedict's visit Jan. 17 to the Great Synagogue of Rome caused quite a stir in some quarters. NCR senior correspondent John L Allen Jr. wrote about visit, , and later tried to eplain it, Making Sense of Benedict’s Jewish Policy, and later to put it into context, A theologian-pope sidelines theology.

Over on Belief.net, Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, comments on Allen's analysis, Making Sense of Benedict XVI. Read the full column, but here's the money quote:

With click of a mouse, Haiti aid grows

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Online, text giving fuels record fundraising -- more than $380 million

"Two weeks after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake leveled Port-au-Prince, U.S. relief organizations in Baltimore and beyond have collected more than $380 million for Haiti, an outpouring of support unprecedented for a foreign disaster.

With the images from Haiti still dominating news coverage and advances in technology allowing more ways to give, fundraising for Haiti has more than doubled the record pace set in the days following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported Friday. Given economic conditions at home, relief officials say, the response has been remarkable.

"It's clear that people are rising to sacrifice," said Mark Melia, deputy vice president for charitable giving at Catholic Relief Services, which is headquartered in Baltimore. "People are making large gifts that are not easy to make."

Relief organizations raising $5 million or more


  • American Red Cross $153 million

  • AmeriCares $6 million

  • CARE USA $9.2 million

Let the Haitians In!

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Some calls in politics are tough. Should the President pursue a stripped down version of health care reform or move on to something else? Should we continue the fight in Afghanistan with more troops or scale back our commitment in the face of frustratingly small results?

Some calls are not tough and one of those is whether or not America should loosen its immigration procedures to allow more Haitians to come here. Yes, we should. In the short term, fewer mouths to feed and fewer souls to provide shelter for will make it easier to take care of those who remain. Haitians who have relatives in America would have a home to welcome them and a family to help them so we are not transferring a refugee crisis from their shores to ours.

In the long term, Haitians will need to be repatriated, of course. The prognosis for rebuilding Haiti will not be improved by inviting some of its residents, especially those with skills and talents, to stay in America forever. Their skills and talents will be needed in Haiti. But, it will be a long time before teachers are more needed than construction workers on that island.

Profiles in love: Ronnie, the ever giving dayworker

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From time to time over the next few months I’ll be posting here the stories of some of the guests who visit us at the Holy Family Catholic Worker House in Kansas City, Mo. Many of these friends have little in the way of possessions or worldly success, but each has a unique story to share. And each of these stories shows an endurance of spirit which is simply incredible - and certainly worth considering at length.

The names of each guest will be changed to protect privacy. Certain personal details will also be edited slightly.

Ronnie walks through the door slowly. As he crosses the threshold a smile lights up his overly-freckled face. He ambles toward the middle room of the house, looking for the person selling bus tickets at half price. Finding her, he reaches into the torn pockets of his slightly soiled khakis and fingers two quarters and six pennies.

“Let somebody else who can’t afford bus passes today use these,” he says as he hands the coins over.

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August 15-28, 2014

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