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Another Class Of
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April 5, 2021
Stimulus Checks Begin Rolling Out
March 13, 2021
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Weapons Ban Doesn't
April 10, 2021
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is just an
old-fashioned bank robbery!
by Joe Staton and Mike Curtis
March 18, 2012
by Charles Schulz
June 17, 2012
by Guy & Rodd & Dan
June 17, 2012
list of demands.
31 March 2011
an era-defining movie
In a just-published, thought-provoking
hard working UK
state TV / state-run television
UK / USA
so called / so-called
The Banks Win, Again
March 17, 2012
The New York Times
Last week was a big one for the banks. On Monday, the
foreclosure settlement between the big banks and federal and state officials was
filed in federal court, and it is now awaiting a judge’s
all-but-certain approval. On Tuesday, the Federal Reserve
announced the much-anticipated results of
the latest round of bank stress tests.
How did the banks do on both? Pretty well, thank you — and better than
homeowners and American taxpayers.
That is not only unfair, given banks’ huge culpability in the mortgage bubble
and financial meltdown. It also means that homeowners and the economy still need
more relief, and that the banks, without more meaningful punishment, will not be
deterred from the next round of misbehavior.
Under the terms of the settlement, the banks will provide $26 billion worth of
relief to borrowers and aid to states for antiforeclosure efforts. In exchange,
they will get immunity from government civil lawsuits for a litany of alleged
abuses, including wrongful denial of loan modifications and wrongful
foreclosures. That $26 billion is paltry compared with the scale of wrongdoing
and ensuing damage, including 4 million homeowners who have lost their homes,
3.3 million others who are in or near foreclosure, and more than 11 million
borrowers who are underwater by $700 billion.
The settlement could also end up doing more to clean up the banks’ books than to
help homeowners. Banks will be required to provide at least $17 billion worth of
principal-reduction loan modifications and other relief, like forbearance for
unemployed homeowners. Compelling the banks to do principal write-downs is an
undeniable accomplishment of the settlement. But the amount of relief is still
tiny compared with the problem. And the banks also get credit toward their share
of the settlement for other actions that should be required, not rewarded.
For instance, they will receive 50 cents in credit for every dollar they write
down on second liens that are 90 to 179 days past due, and 10 cents in credit
for every dollar they write down on second liens that are 180 days or more
overdue. At those stages of delinquency, the write-downs bring no relief to
borrowers who have long since defaulted. Rather than subsidizing the banks’
costs to write down hopelessly delinquent loans, regulators should be demanding
that banks write them off and take the loss — and bring some much needed
transparency to the question of whether the banks properly value their assets.
The settlement’s complex formulas for delivering relief also give the banks too
much discretion to decide who gets help, what kind of help, and how much. The
result could be that fewer borrowers get help, because banks will be able to
structure the relief in ways that are more advantageous for them than for
borrowers. The Obama administration has said the settlement will provide about
one million borrowers with loan write-downs, but private analysts have put the
number at 500,000 to 700,000 over the next three years.
The settlement’s go-easy-on-the-banks approach
might be understandable if the banks were still hunkered down. But most of the
banks — which still benefit from crisis-era support in the form of federally
backed debt and near zero interest rates — passed the recent stress tests,
paving the way for Fed approval to increase dividends and share buybacks, if not
immediately, then as soon as possible.
When it comes to helping homeowners, banks are treated as if they still need to
be protected from drains on their capital. But when it comes to rewarding
executives and other bank shareholders, paying out capital is the name of the
game. And at a time of economic weakness, using bank capital for investor
payouts leaves the banks more exposed to shocks. So homeowners are still bearing
the brunt of the mortgage debacle. Taxpayers are still supporting
too-big-to-fail banks. And banks are still
not being held accountable.
The Banks Win, Again,
Dies at 74
January 13, 2012
The New York Times
By DENNIS HEVESI
Richard Threlkeld, who in his 33 years as a correspondent for CBS and ABC
News covered wars, presidential campaigns, assassinations and the collapse of
the Soviet Union, died Friday morning in a car accident on Long Island. He was
Mr. Threlkeld’s car collided with a propane tanker on a highway in Amagansett,
N.Y., the police in East Hampton, where he lived, said. Mr. Threlkeld was alone
in his car, the police said, and the driver of the truck was not injured.
“Richard Threlkeld had the kind of name and kind of looks that could have made
him a reporter in the movies, but unlike a reporter in the movies, he could
write his own scripts,” Lesley Stahl, with whom he was co-anchor of “CBS Morning
News” from 1977 to 1979, said in a statement. “In fact, he was one of our best
writers and reporters.”
Mr. Threlkeld did two stints at CBS — from 1965 to 1982, and again from 1989 to
1998 — and the intervening seven years at ABC. Over those three decades, he
covered seven presidential campaigns, the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy,
the American invasions of Panama and Grenada, the Patricia Hearst kidnapping and
trial, the war in Lebanon and the Middle East peace process.
On April 29, 1975, after covering the Vietnam War, Mr. Threlkeld was aboard one
of the last helicopters to lift off from the American embassy as Saigon fell to
the Communists. He was in Beijing during the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in
1989 and in Moscow as the Soviet Union crumbled in the 1990s. From that
experience, he wrote a book, “Dispatches from the Former Evil Empire” (2001).
Mr. Threlkeld was among the first correspondents doing features for CBS’s
“Sunday Morning,” which first went on the air in 1979. Three years later, Roone
Arledge, then the chairman of ABC News, hired him as a correspondent for “World
News Tonight.” There he began doing a regular feature, “Status Reports,”
offering analysis of the week’s most important story. For seven of those
reports, in 1982 and ’83, he received the prestigious Alfred I. duPont-Columbia
University Silver Baton. In 1984, he won an Overseas Press Club award for his
reporting on Lebanon and Grenada.
Born on Nov. 30, 1937, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and reared in Barrington, Ill.,
Mr. Threlkeld graduated from Ripon College in Wisconsin in 1960 with a degree in
political science and history. A year later he received a master’s degree from
the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Before joining CBS,
he worked at WMT-TV in Cedar Rapids, and WHAS-TV in Louisville, Ky.
He is survived by his wife of 28 years, Betsy Aaron, a former CBS, ABC, NBC and
CNN correspondent; a brother, Robert; two children, Susan Paulukonis and Julia
Threlkeld; and two grandchildren.
When Mr. Threlkeld left CBS to join ABC, Charles Kuralt, the anchor of “Sunday
Morning,” told The New York Times: “We didn’t want Richard Threlkeld to leave
without saying that we think he has given us something more than 108 good
stories. He has given us a demonstration that the news on television does not
have to be cramped and constricted. It can be expansive and exalting if you make
a little time on the air and then ask a good man to fill it.”
Richard Threlkeld, Award-Winning Journalist,
Dies at 74,
Your So-Called Education
May 14, 2011
The New York Times
By RICHARD ARUM
and JOSIPA ROKSA
COMMENCEMENT is a special time on college campuses: an
occasion for students, families, faculty and administrators to come together to
celebrate a job well done. And perhaps there is reason to be pleased. In recent
surveys of college seniors, more than 90 percent report gaining subject-specific
knowledge and developing the ability to think critically and analytically.
Almost 9 out of 10 report that overall, they were satisfied with their
We would be happy to join in the celebrations if it weren’t for our recent
research, which raises doubts about the quality of undergraduate learning in the
United States. Over four years, we followed the progress of several thousand
students in more than two dozen diverse four-year colleges and universities. We
found that large numbers of the students were making their way through college
with minimal exposure to rigorous coursework, only a modest investment of effort
and little or no meaningful improvement in skills like writing and reasoning.
In a typical semester, for instance, 32 percent of the students did not take a
single course with more than 40 pages of reading per week, and 50 percent did
not take any course requiring more than 20 pages of writing over the semester.
The average student spent only about 12 to 13 hours per week studying — about
half the time a full-time college student in 1960 spent studying, according to
the labor economists Philip S. Babcock and Mindy S. Marks.
Not surprisingly, a large number of the students showed no significant progress
on tests of critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing that were
administered when they began college and then again at the ends of their
sophomore and senior years. If the test that we used, the Collegiate Learning
Assessment, were scaled on a traditional 0-to-100 point range, 45 percent of the
students would not have demonstrated gains of even one point over the first two
years of college, and 36 percent would not have shown such gains over four years
Why is the overall quality of undergraduate learning so poor?
While some colleges are starved for resources, for many others it’s not for lack
of money. Even at those colleges where for the past several decades tuition has
far outpaced the rate of inflation, students are taught by fewer full-time
tenured faculty members while being looked after by a greatly expanded number of
counselors who serve an array of social and personal needs. At the same time,
many schools are investing in deluxe dormitory rooms, elaborate student centers
and expensive gyms. Simply put: academic investments are a lower priority.
The situation reflects a larger cultural change in the relationship between
students and colleges. The authority of educators has diminished, and students
are increasingly thought of, by themselves and their colleges, as “clients” or
“consumers.” When 18-year-olds are emboldened to see themselves in this manner,
many look for ways to attain an educational credential effortlessly and
comfortably. And they are catered to accordingly. The customer is always right.
Federal legislation has facilitated this shift. The funds from Pell Grants and
subsidized loans, by being assigned to students to spend on academic
institutions they have chosen rather than being packaged as institutional grants
for colleges to dispense, have empowered students — for good but also for ill.
And expanded privacy protections have created obstacles for colleges in
providing information on student performance to parents, undercutting a
traditional check on student lassitude.
Fortunately, there are some relatively simple, practical steps that colleges and
universities could take to address the problem. Too many institutions, for
instance, rely primarily on student course evaluations to assess teaching. This
creates perverse incentives for professors to demand little and give out good
grades. (Indeed, the 36 percent of students in our study who reported spending
five or fewer hours per week studying alone still had an average G.P.A. of
3.16.) On those commendable occasions when professors and academic departments
do maintain rigor, they risk declines in student enrollments. And since
resources are typically distributed based on enrollments, rigorous classes are
likely to be canceled and rigorous programs shrunk. Distributing resources and
rewards based on student learning instead of student satisfaction would help
stop this race to the bottom.
Others involved in education can help, too. College trustees, instead of
worrying primarily about institutional rankings and fiscal concerns, could hold
administrators accountable for assessing and improving learning. Alumni as well
as parents and students on college tours could ignore institutional facades and
focus on educational substance. And the Department of Education could make
available nationally representative longitudinal data on undergraduate learning
outcomes for research purposes, as it has been doing for decades for primary and
Most of all, we hope that during this commencement season, our faculty
colleagues will pause to consider the state of undergraduate learning and our
collective responsibility to increase academic rigor on our campuses.
a professor of sociology and education
at New York
and Josipa Roksa,
an assistant professor of sociology
University of Virginia,
are the authors of “Academically Adrift:
Learning on College Campuses.”
Education, NYT, 14.5.2011,
Detroit in ruins:
the photographs of Yves Marchand
and Romain Meffre
In downtown Detroit,
the streets are lined with abandoned hotels
ruined movie houses and schools,
all evidence of the motor city's painful
The photographs of Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre capture
what remains of a
– and hint at the wider story
Sunday 2 January 2011
This article appeared on p12 of the The New Review section of the Observer
Sunday 2 January 2011.
It was published on guardian.co.uk at 00.02 GMT
on Sunday 2 January 2011.
It was last modified at 14.00 GMT
on Tuesday 18 January 2011.
In December 2001, the old Highland Park police department in
Detroit was temporarily disbanded. The building it vacated was abandoned with
everything in it: furniture, uniforms, typewriters, crime files and even the
countless mug-shots of criminals who had passed through there. Among the debris
that photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre found there in 2005 was a
scattering of stiff, rotting cardboard files each bearing a woman's name.
In total 11 women had been catalogued by the police, including Debbie Ann
Friday, Vicki Truelove, Juanita Hardy, Bertha Jean Mason and Valerie Chalk. Down
in the dank basement of the police station, where "human samples" were stored –
and had been abandoned along with everything else – the two French photographers
also uncovered the name of the man who was linked to all of the women's deaths.
Benjamin Atkins was a notorious serial killer. Between 1991 and 1992 he left the
bodies of his victims in various empty buildings across the city.
A photograph simply entitled Criminal Investigation Report, Highland Park Police
Station is one of the many startling images in an extraordinary book, The Ruins
of Detroit, that Marchand and Meffre have made from their
seven week-long visits to Detroit between 2005 and 2009. The
book's photographs suggest the countless strange and sad narratives from urban
life in America in the mid-to-late 20th century. It is also a book of testimony,
which not only illustrates the dramatic decline of a major American city, but of
the American Dream itself. Many of the images seem post-apocalyptic,
as if some sudden catastrophe has struck downtown Detroit, forcing everyone to
abandon homes and workplaces and flee the city.
Cumulatively, the photographs are a powerful and disturbing testament to the
glory and the destructive cost of American capitalism: the centre of a
once-thriving metropolis in the most
powerful nation on earth has become a ghost town of decaying buildings and
streets. There is a formal beauty here too, though, reminiscent of Robert
Polidori's images of post-hurricane Katrina New Orleans. "It seems like Detroit
has just been left to die," says Marchand, "Many times we would enter huge art
deco buildings with once-beautiful chandeliers,
ornate columns and extraordinary frescoes, and everything was crumbling and
covered in dust, and the sense that you had entered a lost world was almost
overwhelming. In a very real way, Detroit is a lost world – or at least a lost
city where the magnificence of its past is everywhere evident."
This sense of loss is what Marchand and Meffre have captured in image after
image, whether of vast downtown vistas where every tower block is boarded-up or
ravaged interior landscapes where the baroque stonework, often made from marble
imported from Europe, is slowly crumbling and collapsing. The pair have
photographed once-grand hotels that were
built in a carefree mix of gothic, art deco, Moorish and medieval styles, as
well as countless baroque theatres, movie houses and ballrooms – the Vanity,
where big band giants such as Duke Ellington and Tommy Dorsey played in the
1930s; the Eastown theatre, where pioneering hard rock groups like Iggy and the
Stooges and the MC5 held court in the 1960s.
They have also captured for posterity the desolate interiors that once made up
the city's civic infrastructure: courthouses, churches, schools, dentists,
police stations, jails, public libraries and swimming pools, all of which have
most of their original fixtures and fittings intact. "As Europeans, we were
looking with an outsider's eye, which made downtown Detroit seem even more
strange and dramatic," says Meffre. "We are not used to seeing empty buildings
left intact. In Europe, salvage companies move in immediately and take what they
can sell as antiques. Here, they only take the metal piping to sell for scrap.
In the Vanity ballroom alone, we saw four giant art deco chandeliers, beautiful
objects, each one unique. It was almost unbelievable that they could still be
there. It is as if America has no sense of its own architectural history and
Marchand (29) and Meffre (23) have been taking photographs together since they
first met in 2002. They are both children of Paris's banlieue, hailing from the
southern suburbs of the city. Without formal training, they describe themselves
as "autodidacts who share an obsession with ruins", which, says Meffre, "allow
you to appear to enter a different world, a lost world, and to report back from
Having photographed old buildings – "mainly disused theatres" – in Paris, they
happened upon an image of Michigan Central train station in Detroit while
surfing the internet for pictures of abandoned buildings. "It was so stately and
so dramatic that we decided right then we had to go," says Meffre, "but we were
naive; we had no idea of the scale of the project, of the vastness of downtown
Detroit and its ruins. There is nothing comparable in Europe."
The essayist Edmund Wilson wrote of Detroit in the 1930s: "You can see here, as
it is impossible to do in a more varied and complex city, the whole structure of
industrial society." Back then, Detroit was the world capital of car production,
the place where, in 1913, Henry Ford had built the first plant devoted to mass
production, employing 90,000 workers in order to make enough Model T Fords to
meet the demands of a burgeoning domestic market. The city's architecture
reflected its wealth and ambition: the waiting room of Michigan Central station
was designed to look like a giant Roman bathhouse, ballrooms were built in
extravagantly baroque styles that equalled anything in New York.
By the 1950s, the city was home to almost 2 million people, and its mainly single-storey suburbs had spread over
120 square miles. Detroit's dramatic decline began soon afterwards, though, and
those same suburbs would play their part in the long saga of abandonment and
decay. The collapse of the automobile industry started in the 1950s and reached
crisis point in the 1960s and 1970s, due mainly to the demand for cheaper
imported cars, made mainly in Japan, and the attendant rise in global oil
prices. By then, Detroit was, in the words of Thomas J Sugrue, author of The
Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit, who
provides the book's illuminating introductory essay, "one of America's most
racially polarised cities, the result of deep-rooted
hostilities between the city's white and African-American populations".
The so called "white flight" from the city centre began in the 1950s and, soon,
as Sugrue puts it, "an increasingly black city was surrounded by a ring of
communities that were all white". This "white noose", as one contemporary
observer referred to it, helped strangle the inner city, both economically and
socially, turning it into a series of large ghettos intercut by freeway. Unrest
reached a head in 1967, when 43 people were killed in a week of rioting that
started after police officers raided an after-hours drinking club and which left
the downtown streets looking like a war zone. Since then, the city has been left
increasingly to its own devices – abandoned by politicians, planners, developers
and businesses, by all, in fact, but the black urban poor. "Even grocery stores
and supermarkets disappeared from the city," writes Sugrue. "By the first decade
of the 21st century, observers described Detroit as 'a food desert' – a place
without even a single, well-stocked supermarket within its boundaries."
The tension of the 60s coincided with the moment when Detroit was the capital of
American popular music, with the Stooges and the MC5 creating a proto-punk music
that remains influential to this day and the Tamla Motown hit factory, founded
by producer-cum-entrepreneur Berry Gordy, creating hit after hit for the likes
of Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, the Supremes and the Temptations. Gordy, too,
though, deserted the city in 1972, moving the Motown operation to Los Angeles.
Still, throughout the hard times, Detroit has remained a place of pioneering pop
music and is regarded as the city where techno was created in the 1980s. Today's
Detroit, particularly the blighted 8 Mile Road stretch that separates the city
from its northern suburbs, is synonymous with the hard-edged rap music of Eminem, the city's most notorious son, whose
songs reflect the edginess and gang culture of the place.
Of late, there are plans afoot to restore some of Detroit's historic buildings
and an even more ambitious plan to "green" many of the open spaces where weeds,
trees and prairie grasses have grown among tower blocks and disused car plants.
Detroit may thrive again but it will take considerable political will and
The Ruins of Detroit tells the city's story so far in one starkly beautiful
photograph after another, all of which add up to nothing less than an
end-of-empire narrative. Or as Sugrue puts
it: "The abandoned factories, the eerily vacant schools, the rotting houses, and
gutted skyscrapers that Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre chronicle are the
artefacts of Detroit's astonishing rise as a global capital of capitalism and
its even more extraordinary descent into ruin, a place where the boundaries
between the American dream and the American nightmare, between prosperity and
poverty, between the permanent and the ephemeral are powerfully and painfully
visible. No place epitomises the creative and destructive forces of modernity
more than Detroit, past and present.
Detroit in ruins:
photographs of Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre,
Singer in Kay Kyser’s Band,
Dies at 91
January 22, 2011
The New York Times
Georgia Carroll, who enjoyed short-lived stardom
as the featured vocalist in Kay Kyser’s popular big band before marrying Mr.
Kyser and retiring from show business in her late 20s, died on Jan. 14 in Chapel
Hill, N.C. She was 91.
Her death was announced by her family.
Ms. Carroll, born on Nov. 18, 1919, in Blooming Grove, Tex., was a successful
fashion model in Dallas in her teens and later moved to New York, where she
continued modeling and appeared on Broadway in the Irving Berlin musical
“Louisiana Purchase.” In 1941, she signed a movie contract with Warner Bros.,
and two years later, she joined the Kyser ensemble.
Kay Kyser and His Kollege of Musical Knowledge, as the band was known, was an
unusual mix of peppy dance music, broad comedy and showmanship. After becoming a
radio star, Mr. Kyser, with his band, made a string of films. Ms. Carroll
appeared in three of them: “Around the World,” “Carolina Blues” and the all-star
World War II morale-builder “Thousands Cheer.”
Ms. Carroll married Mr. Kyser in 1944 and retired from performing in 1946.
Kyser also retired, in 1951. He died in 1985.
Ms. Carroll is survived by two daughters and five grandchildren.
Georgia Carroll, Singer in Kay
Kyser’s Band, Dies at 91,
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