House and Senate leaders have agreed to cut funding for the nation’s largest source of grants for college students to pay student loan contractors, according to legislation that would fund the federal government through next year and avert a shutdown.

Money appropriated for the Pell grant program this year would fall $303 million, or 1.3 percent, to $22.5 billion, according to a proposal first introduced over the summer by retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). Most of those funds would instead be used to pay private contractors that collect borrowers’ monthly student loan payments. Harkin has defended the move as necessary.

The provision, which faced a flurry of criticism after it was revealed in a Huffington Post article published Saturday, was expected. Lawmakers are likely to pass the more than $1 trillion spending bill in the coming days. The government’s spending authority expires Thursday.

The Pell program has a budget surplus that is forecast to turn into a deficit in two years. Cuts to the program would likely lead college students to increase the amount they borrow, further driving up the nation’s $1.3 trillion stack of unpaid student loan bills.

Meant for low-income students, three of every four Pell recipients during the 2012-13 award year had household incomes of $30,000 or less, according to the Department of Education. Nearly 8.9 million students are forecast to receive on average $3,826 from the program this fiscal year, White House budget documents show.

The Department of Education’s student loan servicers — companies that counsel borrowers, set them up with repayment plans and collect their monthly checks — are set to reap the rewards from lawmakers’ cuts to Pell. They’ll get up to $721.7 million, an $8 million cut from last year, but a nearly $44 million increase compared with 2013.


this is so painful to read

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) sanctioned giving federal lands belonging to indigenous Americans to Resolution Copper, a subsidiary of the British Australian multinational, Rio Tinto.
The United States Congress is about to give 2,400 acres of national forest in Arizona that is considered ancestral land by Apache Native Americans to a mining company.

The House and Senate Armed Services Committees quietly amended a provision to a national defense act that would sanction the handover of a large section of the Tonto National Forest to Resolution Copper, a subsidiary of the British-Australian multinational mining company Rio Tinto Group.

Despite a last minute attempt to remove the land provision from the measure, the amendment moved through the U.S. House Rules Committee on Wednesday night.

The amendment is part of a measure attached to annual legislation governing allocations of funds to the U.S. Defense Department, known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This determines how funds are allocated to the US Defense Department.

The “Carl Levin and Howard P. ‘Buck’ McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015” — named after the soon-to-retires chairmen of the Senate and House Armed Services panels — includes the mandate to give away Apache burial, medicinal, and ritual grounds currently within the perimeters of the national forest to the mining company.

Section 3003 of the NDAA reads, “Subject to the provisions of this section, if Resolution Copper offers to convey to the United States all right, title, and interest of Resolution Copper in and to the non-Federal land, the Secretary is authorized and directed to convey to Resolution Copper, all right, title, and interest of the United States in and to the Federal land.”

However, the proposal brushes over the fact that the land to be conceded to the mining company includes cherished territory Apaches have used for centuries to gather medicinal plants and acorns. It is close to a location known as Apache Leap, a summit that tribal members jumped from in the late 19th century to save themselves from marauding settlers trying to kill them.

Terry Rambler, chair of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, told the The Huffington Post that while heartbroken, he was not all that surprised by the news.

“Of all people, Apaches and Indians should understand, because we’ve gone through this so many times in our history,” he said. “The first thing I thought about was not really today, but 50 years from now, probably after my time, if this land exchange bill goes through, the effects that my children and children’s children will be dealing with.”

The 2015 NDAA provides for other land grabs, including one that would allow logging on 70,000 acres of Tongass National Forest in Alaska, and another that would hand over 1,600 acres of one of the most polluted nuclear sites in the country, located in Washington State, to industrial development, a plan that has likewise sparked protest within the Yakama Nation. In October, Tribal Chairman JoDe Goudy wrote to the Committee on Armed Services urging them to stop the amendment.

In another controversial aspect of the amendment, the new NDAA also includes provisions related to allowing domestic “indefinite detention.” In other words, it “paves the way for Guantanamo-style indefinite detention being brought to the United States itself,” the American Civil Liberties Union concluded in its Blog of Rights.


End Of An Era: Last World War II Vets To Leave Congress



The next Congress will be the first in 70 years without a veteran of World War II serving in it. The class of greatest generation vets had a profound effect on the institution, beginning in 1944 when the first veteran of the conflict was elected to the House. The House Class of 1946 alone produced two future presidents — John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon (above) — and a future House Speaker in Carl Albert.

Below are two Senate giants who overcame severe war injuries on the road to Congress: Daniel Inouye of Hawaii (shown here arriving in Washington in 1959) and Bob Dole (shown here recuperating in 1945 at Percy Jones Army Hospital in Battle Creek, Mich.) 



Don Gonyea will have more on the departure of the last World War II vets from Congress on All Things Considered today. You’ll be glad you listened.

While no one was looking, Congress passed a bill addressing police killings

After watching nationwide protests unfold against police brutality, members of Congress did what they have seemed incapable of doing for years: something.

A bill passed by both chambers of Congress and headed to President Barack Obama’s desk will require local law enforcement agencies to report every police shooting and other death at their hands. That data will include each victim’s age, gender and race as well as details about what happened.

"You can’t begin to improve the situation unless you know what the situation is."


Early on a quiet Sunday afternoon in December 1941, the President of the United States was in his study at the White House working on his stamp album. It was a favorite activity and one that allowed him to shut out the troubles of the world, if only for a little while.

The telephone rang, and the White House operator put through the call. Franklin D. Roosevelt learned that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, just before 8 a.m. Hawaii time (1 p.m. in Washington).

It was still unclear what the loss was in lives and ships and planes, but it would be high. Hawaii was the home of the Pacific fleet, along with thousands of soldiers and sailors to man them.

Two of Roosevelt’s speechwriters were out of town, so the President summoned his secretary, Grace Tully, to take down dictation as he “drafted” one of the most famous speeches of the 20th century to deliver to Congress the next day.

“Yesterday, December seventh, 1941, a date which will live in world history,” he began, “the United States was simultaneously and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the empire of Japan.”

Slowly and carefully, he dictated the rest of the speech, and Tully typed up the first draft for his review.

We know, of course, that when FDR finished his wordsmithing of the speech that the first line, the one best remembered, turned out a little different: “Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

Prologue, the Quarterly of the National Archives, takes you through the various drafts of FDR’s so-called “Day of Infamy” speech, with images of pages with his hand-written changes in wording and updates on Japanese attacks on other U.S. installations in the Pacific. And there’s even a “diety” paragraph inserted by top Presidential assistant Harry Hopkins.

In “FDR’s ‘Day of Infamy’ Speech: Crafting a Call to Arms,” Prologue shows you pages from all the drafts, as well as the transcribed version of his actual delivery to Congress on December 8, 1941.

The six-minute speech ended with a request for a declaration of war, which Congress approved within hours.

The article is posted online at http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2001/winter/crafting-day-of-infamy-speech.html.

"Staffers Walk Out Of Congress In Protest Over Brown And Garner Cases"

Dozens of congressional staff members walked out of the Capitol at 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday, in a show of support for protesters angered by recent grand jury decisions not to indict police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Wearing suits, ties and overcoats, the staffers stood several rows deep on the steps of Capitol Hill before making the hands-up gesture that has come to symbolize frustration with the deaths of the two unarmed black men at the hands of police. They stood silently with their arms raised for a moment before disbanding and walking down the steps.

While the event was spearheaded by the Congressional Black Associates, it also drew other staff members, including the Congressional Asian Pacific American Staff Association and the Congressional Hispanic Staff Association, according to CNN.

Civil rights veteran Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., also attended the event, which included a prayer from U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black.

The protest comes a week after Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said she was “deeply disappointed” by a Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to level charges in the Garner case.

Noting that the decision was similar to another jury’s findings in Ferguson, Mo., Fudge wrote:

"In the span of two weeks, this nation seems to have heard one message loud and clear: there will be no accountability for taking Black lives. As an American, it is growing increasingly difficult to believe that there is justice for all."

From The Two-Way blog on NPR.org. Photo by Alex Wong. Blog by Bill Chappell. Posted 4:06 PM ET on December 11, 2014.

People are frustrated with Congress, and part of the reason, of course, is gridlock. But mostly it’s because they see a Congress that works just fine for the big guys, but it won’t lift a finger to help them. If big companies can deploy armies of lobbyists and lawyer to get Congress to vote for special deals that benefit themselves, then we simply confirm the view of the American people that the system is rigged.

AMERICANS TAKE NOTE: This is some police state shit going down right here with minimal coverage whatsoever.


There is a whole lot of legalese happening but a significant undermining of the rule of law is about to pass with minimal debate.

The insertion of Section 309 - PROCEDURES FOR THE RETENTION OF INCIDENTALLY ACQUIRED COMMUNICATIONS -  allows for law enforcement to keep for up to 5 years any ‘incidentally acquired’ “covered communication”.

s309(1)(a) defines ‘covered communication’ as 

"any nonpublic telephone or electronic communication acquired without the consent of a person who is a party to the communication, including communications in electronic storage”

Yes, that means, per s309(3)(A) -

The procedures required by paragraph (1) shall apply to any intelligence collection activity not otherwise authorized by court order …, subpoena, or similar legal process

Fuck the courts, right? If we get some intel then we should be able to keep it regardless of whether there’s any actual case or warrant for its acquisition! /s

To be clear: Executive orders have already allowed this kind of activity by Federal Agencies. This is, however, a whole new kettle of fish. This is providing statutory (Congressional) authority for KEEPING that material, and being able to DISSEMINATE it amongst local law enforcement agencies for their own investigations. It is essentially Congress giving the Executive Orders a go-ahead and statutory basis.

And that’s FUCKED UP.

Me: (introducing Mock Congress to my students) Can anyone tell me what Congress does in the United States?

Chinese Student in the Third Grade: Kill people?

Me: Close enough.

"Doctors who wouldn’t quit even as their colleagues fell ill and died; nurses comforting patients while standing in slurries of mud, vomit and feces."

The Ebola Fighters are the Time Magazine Person of the Year
Read the full story »

We’re making progress in the fight against #Ebola, but Congress needs to fund our efforts → http://wh.gov/ebola-response