By David Ferguson
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
A California coalition of anti-LGBT groups is seeing its hopes dashed in the fight to repeal a rights bill for transgender students.
According to the Washington Blade, the so-called Privacy for All Students Coalition initiative claims it has collected the required number of signatures to force a ballot initiative, but initial samplings of the collected signatures so far shows an unacceptably high number of false signatures.
Privacy for All Students is an anti-LGBT lobbying organization made up of representatives of two other virulently anti-LGBT groups, the Pacific Justice Institute and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), both of whom are listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as hate groups. The two groups formed the California coalition almost before the ink was dry on the California Success in School and Opportunity Act, which allowed transgender students from grades K to 12 to use the restroom or other sex-segregated facility that corresponds to their gender of identification, not their birth gender.
The group faced a deadline last Thursday, by which time it was required to have collected 504,760 signatures in order to have a chance to repeal the Act via a ballot initiative. However, since the group turned in its 613,120 signatures last week, data checkers have found an unacceptably high percentage of bogus names among the signees.
On average, the verified signatures are only about 75 percent accurate, which is for short of the 95 percent rate of accuracy required for an initiative overturning the law to be placed on the ballot.
John O’Connor of Equality California told the Blade that it’s “unlikely, but not impossible” that the initiative to overturn the Act could make the ballot.
By Thom Hartmann
November 26, 2013
If, 250 million years ago, you were standing thousands of miles away from what is now Siberia in the first years of the Permian Mass Extension, probably the most you would notice is an odd change in the weather and a reddish hue in the northern sky. What you wouldn’t know, and probably your children wouldn’t even realize –although their grandchildren probably would – is that a tipping point had already been passed, and an extinction – an unstoppable one – was already underway.
What could get America’s leading experts on climate change to agree on something that the average American has probably never even heard of?
Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and there are trillions of tons of it embedded in a sort of ice slurry called methane hydrate or methane clathrate crystals in the Arctic and in the seas around continental shelves from North America to Antarctica.
If enough of this methane is released quickly enough, it won’t just produce “Global warming.” It could produce an extinction of species on a wide scale – an extinction that could even include the human race.
If there is a “ticking time bomb” in our biosphere that could lead to a global warming so rapid and sudden that we would have no way of dealing with it, it’s methane.
Our planet has experienced five major extinctions over the past billion or so years, times when more than half of all life has died in a geologically brief period of time, and the common denominator of each one has been a sudden pulse of global warming. Increasingly, it appears that a rapid release of methane played a primary role in each one.
Wednesday, Nov 27, 2013
If you have bad credit in America, you will have lots of trouble buying a house, securing a credit card or even getting a job. But it apparently won’t stop you from one very expensive but common purchase: buying a car. And now this may augur some serious problems.
Subprime auto loans – given to people with credit scores of less than 680 – account for 27 percent of all loans for new vehicles in 2013, according to analyst Experian Automotive. That’s well above pre-recession levels. Financial firms have pushed strongly into auto loans of late, and are increasingly willing to fund subprime borrowers. This year, banks even sold $17.2 billion in auto loan-backed securities, which are bonds similar to the mortgage-backed securities that accelerated the housing bubble.
In many parts of the country without viable mass transit options, Americans need cars for transportation to jobs or schooling. And surging car sales, now at their highest pace since 2007, helps the broader economy. So an increase in auto loans isn’t necessarily bad. But when all the growth in lending comes from subprime borrowers, who are vulnerable to greedy financiers by virtue of their sheer desperation, experts get nervous.
“The question is whether it’s predatory, and where you draw the line,” says Stuart Rossman, director of litigation for the National Consumer Law Center. His organization and others have found multiple ways in which auto dealers scam subprime borrowers, forcing them into higher interest rates and longer-term loans. Auto dealers, the middlemen between a consumer with bad credit and the financing for the vehicle, have outsize power to set terms and extract profits. And though the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is supposed to protect Americans from this kind of mistreatment, there’s a catch: Congress carved out an exemption from CFPB regulation for auto dealers, putting their oversight in the hands of the notoriously sclerotic Federal Trade Commission. As a result, just as water inevitably rolls downstream, big money has flooded into auto loans, the financial transactions with the fewest eyes on them.
Dealers obtained this power through a combination of bad regulatory decisions and rising political influence. Decades ago, each major auto company had its own dedicated financing arm; Ford dealers would have to use Ford Credit, GM dealers would use GMAC. The Justice Department’s anti-trust division, in an attempt to drive competition, ruled in the 1960s that automakers could no longer tie financing to the sale of the car. But this gave lots of leverage to auto dealers, who could now pick and choose whom they used to finance their loans. “They shop for the financing company that gives them the best markup,” Stuart Rossman told Salon.
Continue reading at: http://www.salon.com/2013/11/27/americas_next_big_rip_off_car_loans/