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Subprime students: How Wall Street profits from the college loan mess

© commondreams.org
Five years after Wall Street crashed the economy by irresponsibly securitizing and peddling mortgage debt, the financial industry is coming under growing scrutiny for its shady involvement in student loan debt.

For a host of reasons, including a major decline in public dollars for higher education, going to college today means borrowing - and all that borrowing has resulted in a growing and heavy hand for Wall Street in the lending, packaging, buying, servicing and collection of student loans. Now, with $1 trillion of student loans currently outstanding, it's becoming increasingly clear that many of the same problems found in the subprime mortgage market - rapacious and predatory lending practices, sloppy and inefficient customer service and aggressive debt collection practices - are also cropping up in the student loan industrial complex.

This similarity is especially striking in the market for private student loans - which currently make up $150 billion of the $1 trillion of existing student loans.
Star of David

"May your children die, you dogs": Anti-war protests in Israel confronted by right-wing counter-protests


"They don't deserve to live, they need to die"

"May your children die, you dogs"

"Now we want to go back there [to Gaza] and kick out all the Arabs."

"The people demand more shooting"

"Muhammad is dead"

These were some of the calls from a group of Israelis demonstrating in favor of Israel's attack on Gaza in the streets of Tel Aviv last night.

Peaceful protests by Palestinian students at Israeli universities were met with similar incitement.

In Tel Aviv, across the road, another group of Israelis protested against the assault. "We came here to say that we must end this war immediately," Knesset member Dov Khenin of the communist Hadash party told the anti-war crowd, "every additional drop of blood is needless."

The duelling demonstrations were filmed by David Sheen. While anti-war voices exist, there's little doubt that much of the Israeli Jewish population stands behind Israel's attack on Gaza, believing the government propaganda that Palestinians are firing rockets at Israel unprovoked while Israel seeks peace and quiet.
Take 2

New York prosecutor admits he acted in 1970s porn films


Cortland County District Attorney Mark Suben
A district attorney in upstate New York has admitted that he acted in pornographic movies in the 1970s then lied when questioned about it during his second campaign.

Mark Suben, the DA in Cortland County near Syracuse since 2008, held a news conference Friday to say he had lied about his past in the days before this year's election.

"Recently materials have been circulated alleging that I was involved in the adult film industry about 40 years ago in New York. Those allegations are true," he said. "I was an actor in adult films for a short period in the early 70s. I was also an actor in other venues including off Broadway, soap operas and commercial advertisements."

He apologized for his actions and said he used "bad judgment" by acting in porn and by lying about it. He wouldn't take questions, including whether he should resign. On his way out of the news conference, several people said "You lied to me, Mark."

Suben's spokeswoman, Aimee Milks, said Suben will not resign.
Cupcake Pink

Twinkie junkies raid stores as Hostess to shut down

© Kitsap Sun / The Associated Press
With a package of Zingers in one hand, Giovanni Francis, 8, waits in line with his father Tony at the Wonder Hostess Bakery Outlet in Bremerton, Wash. on Friday.
Twinkie junkies have spoken.

Since Hostess Brands Inc. announced yesterday it plans to liquidate and sell its products until supplies are exhausted, Americans have been scooping up Twinkies to get a fix of their beloved snacks. Supermarkets are running out and fans are pushing up prices on eBay Inc.

Friday, shoppers emptied the shelves of Twinkies at a Jewel-Osco store in Chicago.

"We may have a few things left, but pretty much we're out of our Hostess stuff," Paul Knoblock, assistant store manager, said in a telephone interview.

The store was supposed to receive another Hostess delivery Saturday and he hadn't heard of it being cancelled, he said.

A 10-pack of Twinkies was available on eBay yesterday for $24.99 and four 10-packs were listed for $99.99 on the online retailer's website. Other Hostess products including Zingers, Coffee Cakes and Cup Cakes are for sale on eBay.

A 10-pack of Twinkies are listed for $3.29 on the Peapod website, a home-delivery grocery seller owned by Royal Ahold NV.

Hostess, which also makes Wonder Bread, Ding Dongs and Ho Hos, plans to fire more than 18,000 employees and liquidate assets after a nationwide strike by bakery workers crippled operations. The 82-year old maker of snack cakes was undone by the strike after changes in U.S. diets led to years of declining sales while ingredient and labour costs rose.
Donut

Hostess going out of business; nearly 18,000 to be laid off


Hostess, twinkies, cup cakes, fruit pie
Hostess Brands Inc., the maker of iconic childhood treats including Ding Dongs, Wonder Bread and Drakes, is winding down its operations after struggling to keep up with rising labor costs and the ever-changing tastes of Americans, who have grown accustomed to a dizzying array of new snacks flooding supermarket aisles every year.

The company, whose roster of brands date as far back as 1888, filed a motion to liquidate Friday with U.S. Bankruptcy Court after striking workers across the country crippled its ability to maintain production.

Hostess CEO Greg Rayburn said in an interview that there was no buyer waiting in the wings to rescue the company. But without giving details, he said that there has been interest in some of its 30 brands, which include Dolly Madison and Nature's Pride snacks. Experts agreed that it was likely the biggest brands would survive.

Hostess, based in Irving, Texas, filed for Chapter 11 protection in January, its second trip through bankruptcy court in less than three years. Unlike many of its competitors, Hostess had been saddled with high pension, wage and medical costs related to its unionized workforce. The company also faced intensifying competition from larger companies such as Mondelez International, the former snack unit of Kraft Foods that makes Oreos, Chips Ahoy and Nabisco.

The shuttering of Hostess means the loss of about 18,500 jobs. Hostess said employees at its 33 factories were sent home and operations suspended Friday. Its roughly 500 bakery outlet stores will stay open for several days to sell remaining products.
Che Guevara

Schedule of worldwide protests against Israeli slaughter in Gaza

Emergency Global Actions for Gaza

Please go here for updated information.
Sherlock

Cops stop Missouri man who was planning a movie theater massacre at a screening of the final "Twilight" movie

Blaec Lammers
© Associated Press/Polk County Sheriff's Department
Blaec Lammers
Kansas City - A southwest Missouri man who confessed this week to plotting to shoot up a Twilight showing and a Walmart store was detained in 2009 after threatening a store clerk, police said Saturday.

Bolivar Police Chief Steve Hamilton said Saturday that Blaec Lammers, 20, of Bolivar, followed a female clerk around a Walmart store in 2009, threatening her. He wasn't charged, but was committed for 96 hours for a mental health examination. Lammers, whose own mother turned him in Thursday, faces three felony charges in the alleged shooting plot.

In Missouri, hospitals, law enforcement officials and private citizens can request a person be held against their will for up to 96 hours if he or she appears to be a threat to themselves or others.

"It looks like everything was done appropriately at that time," Hamilton said. "The average person will look at it and say 'Why was he not charged criminally?' And the reality is the law only allows so much when a person is having some mental issues."

Lammers was charged Friday with first-degree assault, making a terroristic threat and armed criminal action. He is jailed in Polk County on $500,000 bond. Those charges focus on the alleged Walmart plot.

Polk County prosecutor Ken Ashlock said Friday that his office would file a motion asking for a mental exam of Lammers.

Phone messages left by The Associated Press at Lammers' home weren't returned Friday or Saturday. No attorney is listed for him in online court records.

The investigation into the shooting plot began Thursday, when Lammers' mother contacted authorities, saying she worried that her son "may have intentions of shooting people" during the opening weekend for the final film in the popular vampire series, police wrote in the probable cause statement.
Cow

California slaughterhouse to pay $300,000 in settlement

© Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times
A security guard watches over empty cattle pens at Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. in Chino.
The owners of a Southern California slaughterhouse whose workers were caught on videotape abusing cattle, leading to one of the nation's biggest beef recalls, have agreed to pay more than $300,000 to settle a lawsuit.

The Los Angeles Times reports Donald Hallmark Sr. and Donald Hallmark Jr. also agreed to a nominal $497-million judgment against the now-defunct Hallmark Meat Packing Co., which will not be collected because the company is bankrupt.

The Hallmarks were two of nine defendants in a federal False Claims Act suit brought by the Humane Society of the United States.

The government recalled 143 million pounds of beef in 2008 after the Humane Society released video from the Chino plant showing cows too sick or injured to stand being dragged with chains and rammed with a forklift.

Source: The Associated Press
Calendar

Wal-Mart workers' Black Friday strike

Walmart strike
© OUR Walmart & UNI
America's biggest retailer may be in for an unexpectedly painful holiday season. Protesting low wages, spiking health care premiums, and alleged retaliation from management, Wal-Mart Stores workers have started to walk off the job this week. First, on Wednesday, about a dozen workers in Wal-Mart's distribution warehouses in Southern California walked out, followed the next day by 30 more from six stores in the Seattle area.

The workers, who are part of a union-backed employee coalition called Making Change at Wal-Mart, say this is the beginning of a wave of protests and strikes leading up to next week's Black Friday. A thousand store protests are planned in Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Minnesota, and Washington, D.C., the group says.

In a conference call with reporters on Thursday, workers who were either planning to strike or already striking explained their situation. "We have to borrow money from each other just to make it to work," said Colby Harris, who earns $8.90 an hour after having worked at a Wal-Mart in Lancaster, Tex., for three years. "I'm on my lunch break right now, and I have two dollars in my pocket. I'm deciding whether to use it to buy lunch or to hold on to it for next week." He said the deduction from his bimonthly pay check for health-care costs is scheduled to triple in January. In 2013, Wal-Mart plans to scale back its contributions to workers' health-care premiums, which are expected to rise between 8 percent and 36 percent. Many employees will forgo coverage, Reuters reports.
V

Thousands of Spanish police officers march against austerity

police demonstration
© AFP Photo / Dominique Faget
Spanish police officers hold banners of the Unified Police Union (SUP) as they take part in a demonstration against the Spanish government's latest austerity measures in the center of Madrid on November 17, 2012.
Around 5,000 Spanish police officers marched through the streets of Madrid on Saturday to protest government austerity measures, including frozen pensions and the elimination of their Christmas bonuses.

Officers travelled from across Spain to take part in the demonstration which was called by the nation's main policing union.

Protesters blew whistles, shouted slogans, and carried anti-austerity banners as they marched through the city centre to the interior ministry.

"Citizens! Forgive us for not arresting those truly responsible for this crisis: bankers and politicians," read one banner.

The Spanish government has imposed harsh spending cuts aimed at saving 150 billion euros between 2012 and 2014. The move has been met with anger and protests from hundreds of thousands of Spanish citizens.

The austerity measures are in exchange for a rescue loan of up to 100 billion euros from the EU to help the country's stricken banks.

"The problem is they take from us to give to others, like the autonomous regions and the banks," 33-year-old police officer Antonio Perez told AP.

Comment: You can tell that a regime is getting near the end of its days when the discontent spreads to the enforcers. Watch this space!

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