An activist since the age of 17, MNgranny embraced the Occupy Movement from its beginning. After earning a BA in Mass Communications and enjoying a 30 year career, she is now disabled and dedicates her life to changing the world for the next generation. Her experiences include volunteering in community service organizations and taking leadership roles throughout her academic and professional life. She is also a survivor of rape and domestic violence, a published author and a master naturalist. She has focused for the last several years on studying Middle East geopolitical impacts, and specializes in Kurdish history, culture and politics.
In this 2005 frame from the infamous Access Hollywood video, Donald Trump stands with host Billy Bush (left) as he prepares for an appearance on ‘Days of Our Lives’ with actress Arianne Zucker (right). Just moments before, Trump has told Bush he can do whatever he wants to beautiful women because of his fame. (Screenshot: via The Washington Post obtained video)
As the floodgates have certainly opened in positive ways over recent weeks in terms of women feeling more empowered and secure in speaking publicly about the men—often those in positions of power—who have sexually assaulted or harassed them over the years, the wave of revelations have also brought re-newed focus on the previous and numerous accusations levied against the nation’s most powerful man: President Donald J. Trump.
While an infamous recording released during last year’s campaign in which Trump openly talked about how he used his wealth and fame to prey on women, the shifting national conversation about sexual misconduct—and the “hypocritical” way in which Trump injected himself into that conversation this week—has led many to argue that the numerous women who have already publicly accused Trump of sexual assault or harassment should be given further and renewed hearing. Continue reading →
A devastating 7.3 earthquake struck the Iran/Irag region, killing over 500 and leaving 9,000 injured. Image via Facebook.
As the death toll from the “horrific” earthquake that struck the Iran-Iraq border earlier this week climbs above 500, and as President Donald Trump remains entirely silent on the matter, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and four Democratic senators sent a letter on Thursday to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson demanding that the White House waive certain sanctions on Iran and allow aid to reach those desperately in need.
“After earthquakes in 2003 and 2012, the United States demonstrated its compassion and goodwill by offering assistance to the Iranian people and allowing private relief donations,” the senators wrote. “This time should be no different.”
While the 7.3 magnitude quake affected both Iran and Iraq, Iran bore the brunt of the overall destruction and casualties.
Under the current sanctions regime, Iranian-Americans living in the U.S. are prohibited from delivering funds to their friends and family members. As Al Jazeerareported on Thursday, several attempts by Iranian-Americans to set up fundraisers for Iran in the days following the earthquake have been stymied by U.S. Treasury Department rules.
“The way it is now, it is extremely difficult,” Tara Kangarlou, a New York-based Iranian-American journalist, said of the economic restrictions. “These are the moments that you realize how political tug of war are hurting ordinary Iranians.”
As for official U.S. government assistance, the Trump White House has been relatively quiet; the Treasury Department called the quake “tragic” in a statement to the Associated Press, but did not say whether the administration plans to mount any kind of response. Trump, himself, has not said a word about the quake, which Sanders and his Democratic colleagues noted was “the world’s deadliest of the year.”
In addition to killing hundreds and injuring over 9,000, a report from European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations found that the tremor damaged 12,000 buildings in Iran and Iraq.
Shortly after the earthquake struck, Sanders highlighted the “growing tensions” between the U.S. and Iran—particularly following Trump’s decision to decertify the Iran deal—and argued that providing relief to the Iranian people following such a devastating event “would be an important act of friendship.”
We write today concerning the recent earthquake that struck Iran on November 12. The latest reports indicate over 500 dead and thousands wounded, making this earthquake the world’s deadliest of the year. We urge you temporarily waive any existing restrictions that would impede relief donations in order to speed the delivery of aid.
While the earthquake affected both Iran and Iraq, most of the casualties are on the Iranian side of the border. After earthquakes in 2003 and 2012, the United States demonstrated its compassion and goodwill by offering assistance to the Iranian people and allowing private relief donations. The administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama both temporarily waived sanctions, and the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued general licenses to simplify aid delivery.
Under the Bush administration, an OFAC license authorized U.S. persons to provide cash donations to nongovernmental organizations, U.S. and non-U.S., assisting with relief efforts in Iran. At the time, OFAC also worked with aid organizations to clarify rules on donations of food and medicine and which Iranian entities could receive aid and eased banking constraints to ensure the timely receipt of donations in Iran. While we understand that a general license issued by OFAC in 2013 allows for U.S. nongovernment organization to deliver aid to Iran, we urge you make it easier for U.S. citizens to contribute to nongovernment organizations not based in the United States that are currently providing relief aid to earthquake victims in Iran.
Despite decades of animosity and no formal diplomatic relations, the United States has routinely offered to help the Iranian people in times of need. This time should be no different. We ask that you direct the Department of State to assist in aid efforts and to coordinate such efforts with OFAC and other relevant agencies in order to ensure aid arrives quickly.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your timely response.
“The culture in this country has been awakened to the fact that we have a serious epidemic in the workplace in all professions, in all walks of life, and it’s incumbent upon those who are in authority to address it and address it swiftly.”
In the wake of widespread allegations of sexual harassment and assault across a number of industries, two members of Congress introduced legislation on Wednesday aimed at combating the problem on Capitol Hill.
The Me Too Act, named after the social media campaign that flooded Twitter and Facebook feeds in recent weeks and brought to light the frequency with which women from all walks of life cope with sexual harassment and assault, demands an overhaul of the complaint process women in Congress must navigate in order to report sexual misconduct. Continue reading →
Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and U.S. President Donald Trump met in March 2017 in the Oval Office of the White House. (Photo: Shealah Craighead/White House)
In a move called “twisted” and “absolutely awful” by healthcare experts, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) administrator Seema Verma said Tuesday that the Trump administration will encourage states to force work requirements on people enrolled in Medicaid.
In a speech to the National Association of Medicaid Directors, Verma explained her approach to managing CMS, which emphasizes deregulation and transferring more control to the states. Verma vowed to fast-track approvals of states’ proposals for amending how they implement Medicaid and denounced the Obama administration’s rejection of work requirements for Medicaid recipients, promising to “approve proposals that promote community engagement activities,” which she defined as “working, volunteering, going to school, or obtaining job training.” Continue reading →
It is becoming increasingly more common for the corporate media to pay attention to the dollar’s dying status as the world reserve currency. The media can no longer realistically ignore developments that ultimately chip away at the dollar piece by piece considering Russia, China, and Iran have become brazen about their intentions to erode the dominant currency in the not-too-distant future.
While Anti-Media has documented the decline of the dollar throughout the course of the year as a result of a number of significant geopolitical decisions, there is still one major elephant in the room that needs to be addressed. Once it is, it should shed some light on just how detrimental these recent developments are to America’s status as the global authority. Continue reading →
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump met at the United Nations General Assembly in October. (Photo: Shealah Craighead/White House)
A coalition of more than 200 South Korean civic groups have announced plans to protest U.S. President Donald Trump’s escalation of nuclear tensions with North Korea during his scheduled visit to Seoul next week.
The protests are expected to draw thousands, and will kick off with a “No Trump, No War People’s Rally” outside the U.S. Embassy in South Korea’s capitol city on Saturday, Nov. 4, ahead of Trump’s arrival on Nov. 7 for a two-day visit. The coalition has also planned a candlelight vigil at Gwanghwamun Square for Nov. 7 and a protest outside the National Assembly building, during Trump’s address to parliament on Nov. 8.
In a statement announcing details about the president’s trip to Asia, the White House said, “The President’s engagements will strengthen the international resolve to confront the North Korean threat and ensure the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
“Who can possibly welcome a foreign leader who talks about the possibility of a war on their land?” the civic groups said during a press briefing, according to the Seoul-based Korea Herald. “We should take the path of peace, not war. We cannot help but protect peace on our land and our livelihood for ourselves.”
The protesters plan to “call on the U.S. to stop threatening to start a war, putting pressure on the North, and forcing the South to buy American-made weapons,” the Korea Herald reports, noting:
They also want the withdrawal of the US Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system, which they say caters only to U.S. interests while widening the divide between South Korea and China. China, which believes the system’s radar could be used to spy on its territory, has taken what appear to be retaliatory actions against Korea, such as restrictions on Korean firms’ businesses in China.
They also want the abolishment of the Korea-U.S. bilateral trade deal, which the two countries have recently begun to renegotiate at Trump’s urging, saying the trade deal only benefits the U.S. and disadvantages Korea, especially local farmers.
North Korean newspaper and television reports, according toDeutsche Welle, have highlighted the planned protests against “war maniac Trump’s South Korea visit” and noted that the protesters have “denounced war lunatic Trump’s hysteria for a nuclear war against the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or North Korea].”
The president and First Lady Melania Trump will depart the U.S. on Friday, Nov. 3 and return Nov. 14. In addition to South Korea, they will travel to Japan, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Hawaii.
In an unusual move for a sitting U.S. president, Trump reportedly will not visit the Demilitarized Zone, or the DMZ, the border that separates North and South Korea. Last month, amid rising tensions, reports of a possible presidential visit to the DMZ sparked concern among the international community due to Trump’s tendency to lash out at Kim Jong-un.
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Demonstrators protest the Trump administration’s military transgender ban on July 26, 2017. (Photo: Ted Eytan/fickr/cc)
In a development hailed as a “HUGE step forward,” a federal judge on Monday blocked the Trump administration from enforcing its ban on transgender individuals serving in the U.S. armed forces.
“Today’s preliminary injunction is an important step in the ongoing efforts to protect transgender service members from the dangerous and discriminatory policies of Donald Trump and Mike Pence,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director at Human Rights Campaign.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly is in response to a legal challenge—Doe v. Trump—brought forth by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and GLBTQ Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) challenging the president’s directive.
Kollar-Kotelly said in her ruling that the plaintiffs’ claims “are highly suggestive of a constitutional violation,” as the presidential directive “punish[es] individuals for failing to adhere to gender stereotypes.” In addition, the ruling stated, “a number of factors—including the sheer breadth of the exclusion ordered by the directives, the unusual circumstances surrounding the president’s announcement of them [on Twitter], the fact that the reasons given for them do not appear to be supported by any facts, and the recent rejection of those reasons by the military itself” are evidence for blocking the ban.
The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), which filed an amicus brief in the case, called the ruling “yet another setback for the discrimination administraion.”
“Again and again,” said NCTE executive director Mara Keisling, “our courts have been forced to step in and halt this administration’s unconstitutional and dangerous bigotry. As today’s ruling makes clear, this ban was never about military readiness—just like President Trump’s Muslim bans have never been about national security. This ban is about discrimination, plain and simple. We are grateful that the plaintiffs and thousands of other troops will be able to continue serving without the threat of discharge while this case proceeds.”
The ACLU also filed suit to challenge the directive, with oral arguments in that case set for next month.
Responding to Monday’s ruling, Joshua Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project, said, “This is the first decision striking down President Trump’s ban, but it won’t be the last.”
“The federal courts are recognizing what everyone already knows to be true: President Trump’s impulsive decision to ban on transgender people from serving in the military service was blatantly unconstitutional,” he continued. “As all of these cases move forward, we will continue to work to ensure that transgender service members are treated with the equal treatment they deserve.”
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So what would you miss if the agency suddenly disappeared or got gutted?
In short, a lot. We base this conclusion on the work the three of us have done in recent decades. One of us (Sovern) has been writing about consumer law for more than 30 years, while the other two of us direct a legal clinic that represents elderly consumers. We’ve seen the worst of what financial companies can do, and we’ve also witnessed how the CFPB has begun to reverse the tide.
Life before CFPB
If you are one of the more than 29 million consumers who have collectively received nearly US$12 billion back from misbehaving financial institutions because of the CFPB’s efforts, you already know its value. But even if you are not, you have probably benefited from the bureau’s existence.
Before Congress created the bureau, there was no federal agency that made consumer financial protection its sole mission. Rather, consumer protection was rolled into the missions of a bunch of different agencies. And, as we saw during the financial crisis, regulators often gave it a back seat.
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency regulates banks but was so preoccupied with ensuring lenders were safe that it failed to protect consumers from their predatory subprime mortgages – so much so that it prevented states from doing so too. And now President Trump has put a former bank lawyer in charge of it. The Federal Trade Commission, which is tasked with fighting deceptive business practices, lacked the power to prevent such dangerous lending.
This meant consumer protection on financial matters fell through the cracks.
But as early as 2010, before the CFPB was set up, regulators at the OCC were increasingly aware of what was happening at Wells Fargo thanks to hundreds of whistleblower complaints. The OCC even confronted the bank, yet failed to take any action despite many red flags, according to an internal audit.
Besides protecting consumers, however, Congress had a second motive in creating the bureau: to help prevent the kind of mortgage lending that helped cause the Great Recession.
To that end, the bureau has adopted rules that help consumers to understand their mortgages – something that often wasn’t possible under the previously misleading mortgage disclosures. It also issued regulations to prevent consumers from taking out mortgages that they couldn’t repay. And after borrowers take out a mortgage, CFPB servicing rules establish the procedures servicers must follow when communicating with borrowers, correcting errors, providing information and dealing with loan modification requests.
Two of us have personal experience with one of the bureau’s new mortgage rules, which powerfully illustrates the value of the CFPB.
In 2014, Alice, a client of our law school clinic, was struggling to pay the mortgage on her home – which she had refinanced a few years earlier – after a stroke forced her into retirement. Our clinic helped her apply for a modification of her loan.
But within weeks, instead of acknowledging Alice’s application, the loan servicer summoned her to court to begin foreclosure proceedings in violation of CFPB servicing rules. Fortunately, our clinic was able to rely on those rules in getting the foreclosure action dismissed. Alice got her loan modified and remains in her home.
Protecting the vulnerable
This reveals how the bureau is particularly important to protect vulnerable consumers, like the elderly, who are frequently targeted by fraudsters and predatory lenders because of their cognitive and other impairments and because they often have accumulated substantial assets. The CFPB is the only federal agency with an office specifically dedicated to protecting the financial well-being of older adults.
The House of Representatives has passed a bill that would cripple the CFPB by, for example, taking away the power it used to fine Wells Fargo for opening illegal accounts and concealing its complaint database from public view. In other words, it would force the bureau to sit idly by as financial institutions lie to consumers. Even if the bureau survives, it may be less protective of consumers when its current director, Richard Cordray, leaves. His term expires next summer, and he may step down even sooner. Then we might see a former banker or bank lawyer put in charge, just as has happened at the Treasury Department and comptroller’s office.
Nearly every American has or will have a loan or bank account, a prepaid card, credit card, a credit report or some combination of those, and so has dealings with a financial institution policed by the CFPB. But few of us read the fine print governing these things or can understand it when we do. That gives the companies that write these agreements the ability to draft them to suit their own interests at the expense of consumers.
Similarly, we do not always know when a financial institution takes advantage of us, just as Wells Fargo customers did not always know that it had opened unauthorized accounts that lowered their credit scores.
Consumers need protection from misbehaving companies. If the bureau is eliminated, significantly weakened or starts protecting banks rather than consumers, all consumers will suffer.
This is an updated version of an article originally published on July 10, 2017.
Along with three co-authors, Jeff Sovern received a $29,510 grant from the American Association for Justice Robert L. Habush Endowment and by a grant from the St. John’s University School of Law Hugh L. Carey Center for Dispute Resolution in 2014 to study arbitration. It resulted in an article. Along with Professor Kate Walton, he received a grant from the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges Endowment for Education to study debt collection, resulting in another article. He is a member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.
Ann L. Goldweber is affiliated with NACA as a member.
Gina M. Calabrese is affiliated with the National Association of Consumer Advocates, New Yorkers for Responsible Lending, and the Association of the Bar of the City of New York (former chair, Committee on the Civil Court).
Putting B-52s back on 24-hour alert “would precipitously raise the risk of accidents, strain an aging force, and ensure a destabilizing Russian response,” concluded Adam Mount of the Federation of American Scientists. (Photo: Wilson Hui/Flickr/cc)
As President Donald Trump continues to ratchet up tensions between the United States and North Korea through saber-rattling on Twitter and in television interviews, the U.S. has quietly begun preparing to put nuclear-armed B-52 bombers on “24-hour ready alert,” a status not seen since the end of the Cold War.
Commentators and national security analysts quickly denounced the reported steps as a severe and extremely dangerous consequence of White House “hysterics.”
“You would be shocked to see how totally prepared we are if we need to be,” Trump said in an interview on the Fox Business Network on Sunday, adding to fears of imminent nuclear conflict.
Adam Mount, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, highlighted the fact that the U.S. already keeps hundreds of nuclear warheads on alert at all times. Putting B-52s back on 24-hour alert, Mount concluded, “would precipitously raise the risk of accidents, strain an aging force, and ensure a destabilizing Russian response.”
Marcus Weisgerber of Defense One, who first reported on the Air Force’s preparations on Sunday, noted that with the steps the Trump administration has set into motion, “the long-dormant concrete pads” at Barksdale Air Force base in Louisiana “could once again find several B-52s parked on them, laden with nuclear weapons and set to take off at a moment’s notice.”
Already, various improvements have been made to prepare Barksdale—home to the 2d Bomb Wing and Air Force Global Strike Command, which oversees the service’s nuclear forces—to return B-52s to an alert posture. Near the alert pads, an old concrete building—where B-52 crews during the Cold War would sleep, ready to run to their aircraft and take off at a moment’s notice—is being renovated.
In addition to the renovations currently underway at existing facilities, Defense One reports that “Barksdale and other bases with nuclear bombers are preparing to build storage facilities for a new nuclear cruise missile that is under development.”
The Air Force’s preparations for a possible nuclear conflict come shortly after the U.S. and South Korea completed joint war games off the Korean Peninsula. North Korea responded to the exercises by claiming that “nuclear war can break out at any moment.”
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A 17-year-old undocumented immigrant being held in a shelter in Texas is desperately hoping to have an abortion. The government further delayed her in its latest decision. (Photo: Victoria Pickering/Flickr/cc)
The American Civil Liberties Union pushed back against a Washington, D.C. appeals court decision announced Friday in the case of Jane Doe, an undocumented immigrant who is currently in need of abortion care.
In a 2-1 decision, the appeals court gave the government 11 days to find a sponsor for the 17-year-old, such as a family member living in the United States, instead of upholding a lower court’s earlier order to simply allow the girl to have an abortion.
Jane Doe, as she is called in court documents, is 15 weeks pregnant and currently in a shelter in Texas under supervision of the Health and Human Services Department. Texas bans most abortions after 20 weeks.
“She’s already suffered weeks of delays, which the government has no business doing,” said Jennifer Dalven, one of the ACLU lawyers representing the young woman, in an interview with the Washington Post.
The dissenting opinion of Judge Patricia A. Millett did not mince words, calling the majority’s decision “wrong” and “unconstitutional.”
“Forcing her to continue an unwanted pregnancy just in the hopes of finding a sponsor that has not been found in the past six weeks sacrifices J.D.’s constitutional liberty, autonomy, and personal dignity for no justifiable governmental reason,” wrote Judge Millett.
She added that the government has fully acknowledged that Jane Doe does in fact have the constitutional right to an abortion, and is barring access to the procedure for purely ideological reasons:
The government does not dispute—in fact, it has knowingly and deliberately chosen not to challenge—J.D.’s constitutional right to an abortion. The government instead says that it can have its contractor keep J.D. in what the government calls “close” custody—that is, more restrictive conditions than the contractor imposes on the non-pregnant minors in its care—because of the agency’s own supervening judgment that it would be in J.D.’s best interests to carry the pregnancy to term.
The HHS Department amended its mission statement earlier this month to reflect the Trump administration’s official belief that life begins at conception. Lawyers for the department argued in from of the appeals court on Friday that, “We’re not putting an obstacle in her path. We’re declining to facilitate an abortion.”
“Justice is delayed yet again for this courageous and persistent young woman. She continues to be held hostage and prevented from getting an abortion because the Trump administration disagrees with her personal decision,” said Brigitte Amiri, another ACLU attorney, in a statement. “Our client and women across this country should be able to access a safe, legal abortion without federal officials stepping in to interfere.”
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