TThey say a broken clock is right twice a day but a human can be broke all day every day. I say that because of my situation. before I get my check the money is gone. rather it’s bills car note or paying off loans. and it’s crazy cause it’s not only me in the household. I have a wife and a daughter so imagine what a man goes through as a provider some times we have to settle for noodles. it has become so accustome that we call it noodle every day I try to figure out how things are going to be taken care of and to do extra for my family but needs are more important then wants right. I do agree but at the same time the wants are demanded more than needs and to NOT be able to give the needs can cause confrontation amongst spouses which leads to separation or divorce. I say that because we all know money makes the world spin no matter how you look at it. you can’t and I repeat you can’t do ANYTHING without money. it’s not only the love of your life you have to worry about you have the loans the car note the rent mortgage or whatever that will some what hassle you for money I do believe the rich have it easy but the poor can change the situation their in and I’m working on it.


I had a conversation with a friend of mine and what we we’re talking about was being lucky and being blessed. Now my insight on the whole thing is, how can you believe in luck and blessings. I ask that because. let’s say you find a bag full of money is that luck or is it a blessing. Winning the lottery is it luck or is it a blessing.  I’m not saying don’t believe in what you believe in I’m just confused on what is what. and that goes for religious views as well. I’m not the church going person but I do believe in a higher power. while some believe in evolution or the big bang theory. and some don’t believe at all. my thing is why are there contradictions against some religion and why do others feel their ways are more accurate then others. why can’t they come together and figure out the truth.


A Christmas Story for the Videogame Generation

A Review of Kevin Jakubowski’s book 8-Bit Christmas
Apparently, I’m not a monster. And for this, I have Kevin Jakubowski to thank.

This fear about my humanity all started back in May, right around the time that Console Wars came out. Given that I’d written a book about the epic battle between Sega and Nintendo — a battle that, at the time, felt like life or death to any kid interested in having a social life — it made sense that friends, family members and videogame aficionados would come out of the woodwork to reminisce about the strange joy of growing up in the ’80s and ’90s. Remember the Smurfs? Remember the Snorks? Remember when you used to have to actually remember stuff because you couldn’t just look things up?

I loved having conversations like these; they felt like the memory equivalent of successfully identifying letters on an eye-chart. But no matter how great the banter, or how passionate the arguments (see: slap bracelets vs. snap bracelets), a certain word would inevitably creep into these conversations and stop me dead in my tracks. And that word, the one that made me feel like a monster, was this: nostalgia.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against nostalgia. In fact, I’m actually a recovering nostalgiaholic. Not too long ago, my life could have best been summed up by this exchange from Noah Baumbach’s Kicking and Screaming:

Max: I’m too nostalgic. I’ll admit it.

Skippy: We graduated four months ago. What can you possibly be nostalgic for?

Max: I’m nostalgic for conversations I had yesterday. I’ve begun reminiscing events before they even occur. I’m reminiscing this right now. I can’t go to the bar because I’ve already looked back on it in my memory… and I didn’t have a good time.

But over time, that part of my personality numbed and, you see, this presented a problem with those conversations I started having. Because while I did indeed remember all these things (Smufs were smurf-tastic and Snorks had tube-shaped heads), my memories seemed to lack the wistful wonder of those around me, and so when it came to the matter of nostalgia I felt inherently deficient. Like a ghost trying, and failing, to pick up a snowglobe. Like Pinocchio, wooden to the core, watching real boys battle and bleed. Or, more succinctly, like a monster.

That is until I read 8-Bit Christmas by Kevin Jakubowski.

The book, set in 1980-something, tells the story of a plucky 9-year-old named Jake Doyle and his yuletide quest for the ultimate holiday gift: an 8-bit, state-of-the-art Nintendo Entertainment System. To clarify: that means no Jose Canseco rookie card, no GI Joe hovercraft and no Teddy friggin’ Ruxpin; it’s NES or bust, which just about describes the way that most kids feel about the item at the very top of their Christmas list. Yet despite the relatable premise, this is no typical story. And that’s almost exclusively because the NES was no typical gift. Like the Red Ryder B.B. gun that propels Ralphie through A Christmas Story, the Nintendo Entertainment System drew several parental concerns; but instead of shooting your eye out, Moms and Dads nationwide feared that the NES would rot your brain.

While a generation of eye-patch clad gun-lovers may seem no worse a fate than a young population of videogame zombies, what often gets forgotten about those cabbage-patch days is that, to parents, videogames represented the great unknown. Ever since Kris Kringle began breaking into people’s homes, the most coveted Christmas gifts had always been those which hit at the heart of every child’s greatest wish: to be an adult. Be it the father-like power of shooting a B.B. gun, or the Mom-like fantasy of owning an Easy Bake Oven, the formula was simple: toys + imagination = adult-like fun. Although parents might object to certain gifts with that patented you’re-too-young refrain, for the most part they accepted this equation because they understood it (and, growing up with baby dolls and little green army men, they had lived through it themselves).

Occasionally, of course, there’d been an exception to this equation, as fads like the hula hoop or a slinky didn’t necessarily represent any specific freedom from childhood. But even in these cases, a constant remained: parents understood the toy just as well or perhaps even better than the child. Maybe they couldn’t hula hoop as well as Little Suzie, but depending on their knowledge of physics and their comfort-level using the phrase “centripetal force,” they could still explain how things worked. And, at the same time, they had a general sense of what wouldn’t work; a basic understanding of that product’s limitations. With the exception of a Transformer action figure, a toy was exactly what it looked like. A hula hoop was for twirling and little green army men fought in imaginary wars; neither could magically one day evolve into something else. It’s a distinction that may sound obvious and strange to make, except when considering how this, and so much more, was all changed by the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Although one could argue that Nintendo’s games provided a portal to those same adult-oriented fantasies (by learning how to hunt ducks, or how to master kung-fu), the delivery method of this wish fulfillment was foreign to parents. And not just metaphorically, as it was being produced by a Kyoto-based company at a time when many complained that Japan was stealing American industries. This unusual dynamic served as the backdrop for millions of kids — like myself, like Kevin Jakubowski and, of course, little Jake Doyle — who had no idea about the politics or these parents concerns, but just wanted a Nintendo Entertainment System because it was the most fun toy ever.

For Jake Doyle, this device of superlative fun is nothing but a rumor until, one fateful day, a classmate named Timmy Kleen becomes the first kid on his block to acquire the mythical NES. Unfortunately though, for Doyle and his pals, this Kleen kid is an egomaniacal, rich-and-I-know-it spaz. Nevertheless, like most young despots, Kleen’s love of power is trumped only by his desire to wield it over others. So every Saturday morning, a long line of hopeful gamers would form outside of the Timmy Kleen’s home and then, at nine o’clock sharp, he’d strut out in a bathrobe to allow ten lucky souls to join him in the basement for a full day of Nintendo action. Sometimes admission was just a matter of first-come, first-served, while other times it resorted to a game of best bribe wins. In this manner, we are introduced to the curious world of NES-obsession and, following a horrific spaz out, Jake Doyle’s heroic quest for a Nintendo of his own.

The writing is impeccable and packed with many references to the eighties like Double Dare, baseball cards and Cabbage Patch dolls. But what really impressed me, and where I owe a major thanks to Jakubowski, is how he managed to tether these references to a thoughtful mixture of images, emotions and childish scheming in such a way that a true sense of nostalgia was born. Doyle fantasizes about his family being contestants on Double Dare, obsesses over rarity of Mike Greenwell baseball cards and enters a corrupt holiday-themed bargain with his little sister to ensure he gets a Nintendo and she a redheaded Cabbage Patch doll named Dawn.
As a result of the way Jakubowski expertly toggles between context and story, I was reminded that nostalgia is about much more than pop-cultural references.

Those references — whether in 8-Bit Christmas, or in my everyday conversations — were merely the keys to unlock the unique pairing of mindset and memory. Nostalgia, I realized, wasn’t about yearning to turn back the clock or a strange and silly affection for the Smurfs (or the Snorks), but rather a compass that, in the same way we visit different places, could allow us to visit different times. Whether it’s the joy we felt blowing out a birthday candle, or the fear we felt hiding from a bully, to truly revisit these memories, it’s necessary to turn off our adult-brains and step back into our mindsets at the time. And what better way to re-map the world as we once knew it than to use popular landmarks from the era? Like Double Dare, Mike Greenwell baseball cards and redheaded Cabbage Patch dolls.

Not only do these cultural touchstones create a possibility for shared memories (for those who once desired such things and were perhaps even lucky enough to get some) but by harnessing nostalgia in this manner, those uniquely specific sentiments become translatable to anyone of any age. And that, above all else, is where Kevin Jakubowski deserves credit. He didn’t take the easy road when crafting the story, but instead opted to create an intricate and nuanced highway; a heartfelt path that, for me, brought me back to a place I’d once been but, most importantly, will forever provide a conduit to anyone who’d like to vacation with us, the Nintendo Generation.


Sir Ian McKellen Teaches Cookie Monster How To Limit His Sugar Intake

Sometimes, resisting our cravings can be a smart decision — especially when it comes to health. But holding off is often much easier said than done.

Magical duo Sir Ian McKlellan and Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster demonstrated the importance of resistance in a recent video.

“Resist means to control yourself and stop yourself from doing something you really want to do,” McKlellan tells the blue puppet. And while it takes Cookie Monster a bit of effort to fully comprehend the power of self-control, he eventually comes to terms with it.

YouTube/Sesame Street

Cookie Monster would benefit from a little resistance every now and again, and Americans could too. On average, Americans consume too much sugar, which can increase the risk for diabetes, obesity, heart disease among many other major ailments. Turning down a cookie every so often is a step in the right direction to change this.



Declaring Corinthian Colleges Too Big To Fail: A Terrible Idea


The U.S. Department of Education has blessed a deal under which a non-profit student debt collection company, Minnesota-based Education Credit Management Corporation (ECMC), will pay $ 24 million to acquire 56 campuses, operating under the brands Everest and WyoTech, owned by collapsing Corinthian Colleges, one of the most abusive and deceptive for-profit college companies. The terms of this deal are extraordinarily favorable to ECMC and extraordinarily unfavorable to students.  The agreement creates a remarkable conflict of interest for the Department itself, and it sets terrible precedents for future failing colleges.

The deal is so bad that it seems that the Department is determined to prop up these Corinthian campuses at all costs.  In other words, it has concluded that Corinthian Colleges is too big to fail.  It is making a terrible mistake.

The Obama Administration has done a great deal of hard work to try to stop the torrent of waste, fraud, and abuse engaged in by many companies in the for-profit college industry, which has been grabbing more than $ 30 billion a year in taxpayer money, mostly to offer career education programs in fields like medical assisting, criminal justice, and auto repair. The bad institutions in this sector offer poor to middling quality programs, charge sky-high prices, and use deceptive and high-pressure marketing to sign up as many students as possible, and deposit their federal aid checks, regardless of whether they will benefit from the program. Corinthian has been among the worst along those lines. The Administration has been doing some good things to try to target federal aid away from such bad programs and toward those that actually help students build careers. But the ECMC-Corinthian decision puts that progress at risk.

It’s not too late, though, for the Department to change course.

Minutes ago, 46 civil rights, veterans, student, and consumer groups, part of a coalition in which I am a participant, sent a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Attorney General Eric Holder, and CFPB director Richard Cordray sharply criticizing the ECMC-Corinthian deal and listing multiple specific problems with the proposed agreement. Our group, which includes the NAACP, League of United Latin American Citizens, Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America, Student Veterans of America, AFL-CIO, Consumers Union, and many others, did so after extensive discussions between coalition representatives and Department of Education officials, as well as multiple conversations with ECMC executives, during which we expressed our strong concerns.

The deal had already been attacked by advocates for students on Capitol Hill. “I’m puzzled and upset by this outcome,” Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) told Buzzfeed. “I can’t see how students get a break in this scenario. They’re now stuck in this debt collection university.” In the wake of the proposed sale, Durbin, Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and eleven more Democratic senators have written to Duncan asking that his Department exercise its authority to discharge federal student loans for students with legal claims against Corinthian. Representatives Steve Cohen (D-TN), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), and Mark Takano (D-CA-41), issued a statement noting that “ECMC has no prior experience operating institutions of higher learning, but,” as the New York Times reported earlier this year, “it does have a checkered history that includes using ruthless collection tactics against student loan debtors who should have reasonably qualified for bankruptcy relief.”

There are indeed real questions about whether ECMC has the corporate character and capacity to undertake the enormously complicated task of suddenly running one of the nation’s largest school systems. But no less concerning are (1) the nature of assets being acquired and (2) the proposed terms of the deal.

There are good programs and instructors, and many fine students, in the Corinthian chain; I have spoken with scores of well-intentioned teachers and staff in the past few years. But they have complained about a company that has sacrificed student outcomes to the company’s bottom line. Corinthian’s deceptive practices and poor record of student success has given many of its programs a weak reputation and left many of its students — people of color, single parents, veterans, and others struggling to build a future — deep in debt. That tarnished image increases the challenges for graduates in finding jobs in their chosen field. It also increases the challenges for any acquirer to recruit new students without engaging in the kind of deceptive marketing that has delivered students to Corinthian programs. It’s not at all clear that anyone, including ECMC, can turn the quality of programs around fast enough to effectively help enough of the current students, who total about 39,000, 51 percent of them studying exclusively online.

It’s thus doubtful that it makes sense to have a plan that depends on new students enrolling at these Corinthian campuses, as opposed to seeking educational opportunities elsewhere. Why would the Department of Education force taxpayers to invest in a risky scheme to prop up these campuses for perhaps decades to come, mostly just to avoid having to redirect the current students to new educational opportunities, especially at a time when various sectors of higher education have excess capacity?

Closing Corinthian programs and campuses will likely occur in California, where Attorney General Kamala Harris refused to agree, as other regulators have now agreed, to shield ECMC from financial claims for past harm to Corinthian students. Thus ECMC declined to buy those campuses, which operate as Everest schools and also under the brand Heald College (a once higher-quality, independent institution that Corinthian bought and promptly ruined, as Heald’s former president recently charged). Shuttering of campuses would create hardships for those students who like their current Corinthian programs, however overpriced they are. It also, of course, would cost many Corinthian employees their jobs. But Attorney General Harris is right to stand up; current and future students, and the country’s long-term interest, is best served without the current anti-student Corinthian-ECMC deal.

Many of the current Corinthian students were defrauded, and they deserve the option of getting their money refunded, or attending another school.

If the Department is reluctant to spend federal dollars on forgiving the Corinthian students’ loans, and if Corinthian’s collapse was hastened when the Department froze federal aid and the company claimed it was almost out of cash, it’s fair to ask where all the federal tax dollars sent to Corinthian are now. Santa Ana, California-based Corinthian, at its peak, was hauling in more than $ 1 billion a year in federal student grants and loans.

Corinthian CEO Jack Massimino took home more than $ 3 million a year.  He recently put on the market, listed at $ 11.5 million, his 10,000-square-foot, mountain-view second home in Park City, Utah; the listing says it is “Simply THE finest home in Kamas Valley and possibly the Intermountain West,” and it offers a heated horse barn, a “Children’s ‘Art Barn,'” and a pond on 61 acres.

The complaint against Corinthian filed by California AG Harris, one of many state and federal law enforcement actions taken against the company, alleges that Massimino and other “senior [Corinthian] executives” had “firsthand knowledge of the misconduct,” i.e., the deceptions at the center of Harris’s lawsuit.

Our coalition letter, the text of which is below, lists many of the glaring problems with the ECMC-Corinthian deal, but I will highlight two particularly bad ones:

First, ECMC has insisted on — and the Department of Education has not rejected — requiring students when they enroll to waive any right to pursue disputes in court; instead they must resolve matters through private arbitration. Such mandatory arbitration agreements, which strongly favor companies over individuals, are common when it comes to anti-consumer business like the credit card industry and — of course — the for-profit college industry.  The Department could, and should, demand that all recipients of federal student aid, including for-profit colleges, allow students who have been lied to, assaulted, or otherwise harmed by the institution, the option of a day in court.  Instead, with this agreement, the Department appears to be moving in the opposite direction, acquiescing in ECMC forcing harmed students into arbitration, even though it plans to run its school system as a non-profit; few, if any, non-profit colleges currently use mandatory arbitration clauses. Denying students such basic legal rights shields a college from accountability for treating its students fairly. ECMC executives’ insistence on arbitration may be revealing of how they really would operate the schools, however well-intentioned and public-spirited they believe they are now. And the Department of Education’s apparent acceptance of that position is another sign of its desperation to have someone take over these campuses before they fold — regardless of the harms and dangerous precedents.

Second, the agreement builds in an extraordinary conflict of interest for the Department of Education. ECMC has insisted it won’t pay more than $ 24 million up front. So in order to recoup some of the taxpayer investment, the agreement includes an “Earn Out” provision providing that ECMC’s new college subsidiary, Zenith, will pay the Department “up to $ 17.25 million … over a seven-year period” based on a still-unspecified “percentage of funds that exceed targets specified by the Department.” In other words, the agreement would essentially give the Department an equity position, dependent on ECMC making a good deal of money.  What’s the problem with that? The Department is charged with overseeing ECMC’s conduct — that it is not engaged in predatory marketing, or leaving too many students defaulting on their loans, or lying to the Department itself. How can an oversight body have a financial stake in a company it is charged with regulating? It’s a blatant and unacceptable conflict. It could easily be avoided by ECMC, whose coffers are full of cash, ponying up a bit more money now. But the Department isn’t insisting on that, again suggesting its desperation to prevent these Corinthian campuses from failing.

Right now, at least two other huge for-profit college companies — ITT Tech and Education Management Corporation (EDMC, no relation to ECMC) — may be at serious risk of collapse, with declining enrollments, depleted share prices, and a pile of federal and state law enforcement investigations and lawsuits. Other big industry players are also in trouble.  Treating Corinthian as too big to fail, and thus sacrificing students and common sense, simply to find a buyer, any buyer, is a terrible course and a terrible precedent.  The time to stop this bad decision is right now.

Here’s the text of our coalition letter:

December 17, 2014

The Honorable Arne Duncan

Secretary of Education

The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.

Attorney General of the United States

The Honorable Richard Cordray


Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Dear Secretary Duncan, Attorney General Holder, and Director Cordray:

As advocates for students, veterans, consumers, civil rights and college access, we write to express grave concerns about the proposed sale of 56 Corinthian Colleges campuses to ECMC Group, a debt collector and loan servicer. We urge you not to waive liability for any prospective buyer of Corinthian campuses unless the sale provides significant relief for current and former students and contains enforceable safeguards to protect students and taxpayers from future abuse.

Last year, the publicly traded Corinthian Colleges Inc. received more than $ 1 billion in federal student grants, loans and GI Bill benefits and enrolled more than 70,000 students, 69% of whom are African-American, Hispanic or other minorities. Widespread evidence of fraud has led to multiple pending federal and state investigations of and lawsuits against Corinthian, including by the Justice Department and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). After Corinthian repeatedly failed to address concerns about its practices, including false job placement rates used in marketing claims and allegations of altered grades and attendance, the Education Department placed Corinthian on heightened cash management in June, prompting Corinthian to agree to sell or close all of its campuses.

ECMC’s purchase of 56 Corinthian campuses with a combined enrollment of more than 39,000 students would render it the nation’s largest nonprofit career college chain, yet ECMC is a debt collection and loan servicing entity with no experience running an institution of higher education. Further, in the field where ECMC does have experience, The New York Times reports that its actions have “veered more than occasionally into dubious terrain,” using “ruthless tactics” to “hound” debtors to the point where the company has been sanctioned and reprimanded by judges for abusing the bankruptcy process. ECMC’s track record does not inspire confidence in its ability to provide high-quality educational opportunities under Zenith, its newly created nonprofit entity.

But no less troubling are the terms of the deal. The Education Department, CFPB, and multiple state attorneys general have conducted investigations that document that Corinthian inflated job placement rates and engaged in other fraudulent practices to induce students to enroll and take on federal and private loan debts. The Higher Education Act rightly provides for loan discharges for such students and students at schools that close. Yet, the terms of the proposed sale to ECMC would not give students the choice of completing or a fresh start, while leaving the campuses in the hands of a troubled entity with no educational experience. ECMC’s lack of any experience running an institution of higher education and its reputation for aggressive loan tactics make enforceable safeguards all the more essential.

Students and taxpayers deserve better.

Given the evidence that Corinthian made false representations to secure enrollment, any waiver of liability for a purchaser of Corinthian campuses must ensure adequate relief for past and current students. We applaud the 13 senators who recently urged Secretary Duncan to use his authority under the Higher Education Act to immediately discharge the loans of current and former Corinthian students. We also urge Secretary Duncan to exercise his authority to expand the time period during which students who withdraw before a Corinthian school closure are eligible for closed school discharges. In addition, any waiver of liability must include enforceable safeguards to protect students and taxpayers by preventing further harm and ensuring that poor programs dramatically improve or close. By contrast, the proposed sale would effectively remove an incentive for many of Corinthian’s worst programs to improve because degree programs run by this new nonprofit entity would no longer be subject to the gainful employment rule.

Any transaction involving Corinthian campuses should include standards that federal and state entities and the public can help enforce, including those below. Many are typical of nonprofit colleges or required of all new colleges receiving funding from the Education Department. Given ECMC’s stated commitment to operating a reputable, nonprofit college that offers high-quality programs, it should have no objections to such conditions, including:

    1. No mandatory arbitration clauses or bans on class action lawsuits in enrollment agreements. Nonprofit colleges do not require mandatory arbitration or ban class action lawsuits as a condition of enrollment.


  • Apply the standards required for all new colleges, including that no more than 33 percent of students withdraw in any academic year. ECMC has said it will run the campuses as new schools, not as they had been run under Corinthian ownership, and it should be required to meet the standards for all other new colleges.



  • Immediately post all faculty names and credentials on the web. Nonprofit colleges typically make public their faculty names and credentials, enabling prospective students to better evaluate the quality of the programs and faculty.



  • Apply gainful employment regulation standards and consequences to all programs for seven years. According to the latest public data, many of Corinthian Colleges’ degree and certificate programs would fail the gainful employment metrics or fall in the “zone,” which requires rapid improvement. The purchase of these programs by ECMC must not eliminate requirements for such poor degree programs to rapidly improve or close. The gainful employment requirements should continue to be applied during the “earn out” period, just as the Department continues to apply the 90/10 rule requirements after a for-profit college is purchased by a non-profit entity to ensure the transaction does not evade the law.



  • Require all recruiting calls be recorded and allow state and federal officials to monitor a random sample. Given the history of deceptive recruiting to attract students to overpriced, low-quality programs, all calls should be recorded and subject to federal and state monitoring.



To be clear, these are the minimum standards that should be adopted, and even if they were all adopted, we have serious concerns that the proposed sale is not in the best interest of students and taxpayers and sets a dangerous precedent.

For example, we understand that the Department plans to prohibit ECMC from any involvement with the loans of students at its schools to avoid a conflict of interest. Yet the terms of the proposed sale create a serious conflict of interest by having ECMC share revenue with the Education Department during the “earn out” period. The Department should not benefit from enrollment growth at the ECMC campuses that the Department is charged with overseeing.

We also understand that ECMC plans to establish a separate board for its new educational subsidiary, but that the board may have many of the same highly compensated people who are on ECMC’s current boards, which raises questions about whether the board will provide the necessary independent oversight required of nonprofit college boards.

Finally, ECMC’s commitment to reduce tuition by 20% and close certain programs is not sufficient; its programs will still cost many times more than higher quality programs available at existing colleges, and it does not address many of Corinthian’s worst performing programs, including many failing the gainful employment requirements, that have default rates over 30%, and whose graduates earn less than $ 17,000 per year.

According to press reports, the California Attorney General has refused to waive liability for ECMC because the proposed terms do not provide adequate relief for past and current students and do not provide enforceable safeguards against future harm. We urge you to stand up for students by insisting on sale terms that provide adequate student relief and protections.


Air Force Sergeants Association (AFSA)


American Association of University Professors Counseling (AAUP)

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU)

American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

Center for Responsible Lending

Children’s Advocacy Institute

Consumer Action

Consumer Federation of California

Consumers Union

Covenant House


East Bay Community Law Center

The Education Trust

Generation Progress

Higher Ed, Not Debt

Housing and Economic Rights Advocates

The Institute for College Access & Success

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

League of United Latin American Citizens

Military Officers Association of America (MOAA)


National Association for College Admission Counseling

National Association of Consumer Advocates

National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients)

National Consumers League

National Education Association

One Wisconsin Now

Paralyzed Veterans of America

Project on Predatory Student Lending of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School

Public Advocates, Inc.

Public Citizen

Public Counsel

Public Law Center

Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

Student Debt Crisis

Student Veterans of America

United States Student Association


Veterans Education Success

Veterans Student Loan Relief Fund


Vietnam Veterans of America

Woodstock Institute

Young Invincibles


‘Real Housewives Of Atlanta’ Mashed Up With A Christmas Cartoon Is A Present For Everyone

Christmas just came early.

Since the classic holiday TV specials are starting to show their age, Jimmy Kimmel has recently been preserving them by adding a modern twist. Kimmel has already combined scenes from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” with “Maury,” but this week the comedian mashed up “The Year Without a Santa Claus” with audio from “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.” The result is a new holiday classic the whole family will love: “The Real Housewives of AtSanta.”

It’s the magic of Christmas with all the over-the-top drama you never knew it needed.

“Jimmy Kimmel Live” airs weeknight at 11:35 p.m. ET on ABC.

Johns Hopkins Mistakenly Sends Acceptance Letters To The Wrong Students

BALTIMORE (AP) — Johns Hopkins University says nearly 300 applicants were mistakenly sent welcome messages when they were actually rejected or deferred.

University officials tell The Washington Post it was a mistake of human error. Vice provost David Phillips says a contractor who works with Johns Hopkins on electronic communications pulled a wrong list of emails.

The students had applied early decision to the prestigious Baltimore university. Of the 294 applicants who received an erroneous message, 285 had actually been denied admission and nine had received deferrals.

Cathy Stephenson of Culpeper County, Virginia, says she’s irate that her son received a mistaken admission notice after an earlier denial. The email subject line was “Embrace the YES!” and the body welcomed her son. She says university officers should make personal calls to apologize.

Removing the Interference

A healthy public school system is like a healthy human body. Think about it: The brain is the head honcho. It makes all the decisions about which organ, tissue or cell is going to do what, when and how. Our education department does the same. State Ed. is the designated leader. They create the ideas and plans and then make sure that these plans are implemented for the benefit of the student body.

Now let’s look at the spinal cord. The human spinal cord is actually an extension of the brain. This long stalk of nerve tissue is protected by the vertebrae and travels down the length of the spine. The cord is carrying vital information for the health of the body. I would compare the spinal cord to administration within a public school district. Think about it: School administrators receive their orders from the head honcho, the state education department. The school superintendents, principals, vice principals and heads of curriculum relay this vital information to the staff.

Coming right off the spinal cord are the spinal nerves. These guys transmit the information, created by the brain and relayed by the spinal cord, to the entire body. These vitally important nerves carry this information to the heart, liver, lungs, spleen and every other tissue in the body. And if all these cells receive and do as they are told, the result is one very healthy human body. The public school teachers are like the spinal nerves. Plans made by our leaders are expected to be implemented by the teachers. We are to teach the young people of America what they need to know so that they will grow up to be self-sufficient, well-educated and able to take care of themselves in this difficult world. Our young people, of course, are represented by the organs, tissues and cells of the human body.

Okay, so let’s get into it because there are plenty of sick and ailing people out there, so what is the problem with health and for that matter, public education? What kind of interference are we dealing with?

In the human body the brain is totally encased within the skull. The brain is well-protected and its scope of control is unquestioned. I suppose the same thing can be said for the Department of Education. The spinal cord too is protected to a lesser degree, yet still pretty safely encased within the vertebrae and the discs. The nerves? Well, these guys are out there traveling throughout the entire body and their protection is often severely limited.

Is anybody beginning to get my analogy?

Here’s an example: Inside the discs is this little ball of tissue called the nucleus. This nucleus is composed of the same tissue as the spinal cord. Sometimes this little guy sneaks its way out from inside the disc and settles on the sciatic nerve. The result is lots of pain!

Unfortunately, leadership in public education is guilty of doing the same thing. Instead of just staying in their area of expertise, (which I suppose is, well; I don’t really know what State Ed. is good at!), they have wandered out like the nucleus in a sciatic attack and their painful interference has settled upon the teachers of America. The teachers, just like the nerves, are attempting to inform the students of vital information. When the kids receive, understand and implement this teaching into their lives, the result is a person whose life is now on the right track. It can be compared to a physically healthy body. But what if the human brain began to hand out instructions that were far too difficult for the heart, liver, lungs and spleen to handle? That is called stress and stress kills! So if the State Ed. Department does the same thing, expecting teachers to teach information which is too difficult for their students, wouldn’t the undue stress kill their young spirits and shatter their self-confidence? What about all these tests the kids are being asked to take and expected to pass? An unhealthy body awaits the Grimm Reaper. A bone out of place in the human spine creates interference to health. The stress of all these state exams creates interference to the emotional, psychological and developmental well-being of our youth. Is all this testing good for our young people?

I don’t think so.

The Hobbit, The Battle of the Five Armies Another Tour de Force

Once again Peter Jackson triumphs in his directing and writing of the The Hobbit, the Battle of the Five Armies. It stars Martin Freeman just nominated for a Golden Globe for Fargo, Ian Mc Kellen, Richard Armitage and an army of Dwarves and stunning monsters guaranteed to make you sit up in your seat and root for Bilbo and Company and from the obliteration of the Middle Earth. And bravo to 92 year-old Christopher Lee as Saruman for allowing us to gaze upon his awesome presence.

I wondered how could this third and final installment in this trilogy maintain my interest, but it did and then some. The credits were a movie in themselves and played for a good 10 minutes after the film ended and showed just how much work and creativity went into this triumph of special effects, editing, costume and acting. Orlando Bloom, Richard Armitatage as Thorin and a host of long haired warriors add romance to this film that is about war, but with their dashing good looks, sensuality is added to this quotient. The beauteous Evangeline Lilly as Tauiel and the magnificent Cate Blanchett as Galadriel are the leading female characters who add to the feelings of romance past.

Smaug, the Necromancer, in T.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 novel, The Hobbit, is the fearsome dragon who invaded the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor. The voice of Smaug is Benedict Cumberbach. Thirteen Dwarves set out to take the kingdom back with the help of wizard Gandalf (Ian Mc Kellen) and the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman). In the opening of The Hobbit, The Battle of the Five Armies Smaug has set fire to the Dwarves kingdom and the Dwarves must flee.

They seek solace with Thorin who guards the gold treasures stolen from the dragon and after much hemming and hawing, Thorin agrees to help the Dwarves and joins in a battle that lasts half of the film and is breathtaking if not a bit confusing. War seems to be Peter Jackson’s forte and one wonders if he is influenced by WWI. The CGI effects are spectacular though in the opening sequence I found them weak, but as the film progressed they developed and their splendor excelled any CGI film thus far.

We have come a long way, Baby, in special effects and Peter Jackson is the King of this creativity. We all know Bilbo ends safely in his old age in his peaceful cottage in the English country side. Now let’s hope Peter Jackson and his team of merry writers. Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro — move from Middle Earth to return to this century to entertain us with their billion dollar talents. Enough already of T.R.R.Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings and Middle Earth. Common, Peter, come back to the 21st Century. It needs you.

The blogger’s website is here.

Digging Out of Tourism Downfalls: Egypt’s Archaeology Takes the Stage

Finally, there is good news from Egypt. During a visit to Washington, D.C. last week, Egyptian Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou announced that travel to Egypt is up 70 percent this year. Tourists are venturing back to the country despite political turmoil — casting a vote of confidence in President el-Sisi’s efforts to restore economic and political stability since taking office last June. Yet, if President el-Sisi is to successfully revitalize the economy, promoting cultural tourism must be a core part of his strategy.

Before the Arab Spring, tourism accounted for approximately 11 percent of the country’s GDP and was a significant job creator in the economy. In the aftermath of the 2011 Revolution, tourism dropped dramatically to 6.7 percent of GDP. Foreign travelers have stayed away during the political turmoil of the past three years. The breakdown in the security infrastructure also led to a massive increase in looting at archaeological sites — a devastating loss of irreplaceable cultural material. In the months since General el-Sisi has taken power, Egypt has been slowly rebuilding its reputation as a safe destination for the world’s adventurers.

In 2010, a record number- 14.7 million — of overseas travelers generated revenues of approximately $ 11 billion for Egypt’s economy. U.S. and European tourists — lured by Egypt’s romantic past — flocked there to visit the Great Sphinx of Giza, King Tut’s lavish tomb, and other mysterious ancient sites. As the security situation improves, now is the time for Egypt to consider new opportunities to promote — and protect — its cultural and aesthetic patrimony. This must be an essential part of its economic revitalization plan. And there are lessons to be learned from another great ancient civilization, China.

China has embarked on a creative and effective program to protect its cultural heritage and thereby promote tourism. In recent years, the country has sought UNESCO World Heritage designations for its historic sites and geographies. This designation serves a dual purpose: to protect and promote the unique culture of these ancient landmarks, and to encourage tourism to generate revenue. World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) researchers have proven a positive correlation between a World Heritage designation and tourism growth, with a resulting increase in long-term GDP growth. Tracking figures over a 22-year period, the IMF determined that tourism generated by World Heritage status increases growth per capita by an astounding 10.4 percent.

Not surprisingly, Chinese cities have been aggressively pursuing World Heritage designations — and the results speak for themselves. After receiving a World Heritage Designation, the historic site of Lijiang, in rural Yunnan Province, now hosts over 11 million visitors annually. The ancient village of Kaiping saw its tourism rise from 100,000 to a staggering two million visitors a year, with revenues of $ 7.8 million annually, after their inscription to the list in 2007. For rural areas with little industry, cultural tourism has become an economic windfall.

To date, China is tied with Italy as the world’s largest World Heritage destination, with 47 designated sites. Egypt, equally well known for its rich historical treasures, has a mere six.

So what can Egypt learn from China?

• Actively pursue UNESCO World Heritage designations. Egypt has a rich treasure trove of historical sites and geographies that deserve to be on the list. Yet the last site to receive UNESCO World Heritage Status in Egypt was in 2004. Given the positive economic correlation, it is in Egypt’s interest to tee up a number of sites for approval.
• Build up the tourism infrastructure. Along with these UNESCO designations must come the appropriate infrastructure to support an influx of tourists — quality hotels, restaurants and multi-lingual, well trained tour guides. Strategic infrastructure investment will have a multiplier effect throughout the local economies surrounding these sites.
• Site preservation and management. Essential to this strategy is developing plans to protect the historical integrity of the ancient sites. Without adequate advance planning, tourists can destroy the very sites that they have come to admire.
• Strategic public relations campaigns to promote tourism in key markets. As of spring 2014, Chinese tourists account for one of every ten tourists worldwide. American tourists spend approximately $ 86 billion on international tourism, but Chinese tourists far surpassed them in 2013, spending a total of $ 129 billion. And China’s growing middle class has a big appetite for international tourism, so it appears that this is merely the tip of the iceberg, in terms of tourism dollars.

Implementing these recommendations would help grow Egypt’s promising bump in tourism, and contribute mightily to the country’s economic resurgence. It would be no small task to restore the tourism industry to at least 11 percent of Egypt’s GDP, but there is much economic potential in Egypt’s undesignated cultural sites. Sites for consideration cover a broad range of Egypt’s history, from Pharaonic temples, such as the ancient Temple of Hathor built by Ramses III in 305 BC to historic Islamic mosques and Christian monasteries. These are touchstones of our common heritage that should be widely known.

Seeking Unesco World Heritage listings will also help better protect and preserve Egypt’s historic patrimony for all to experience. Yes, it will boost the Egyptian economy, but perhaps more importantly, the stories contained in these ancient sites will inform our understanding of our very foundation in human history.