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Free higher education for all - What a concept! In Chile, not in this country


Michelle Bachelet, who won Chile’s presidency in a landslide on Sunday, has vowed to overhaul her country’s economic model to deal with endemic inequality. And she plans to start by providing free higher education for all.

It’s a radical departure from the current system, in which the government accounts for just 15 percent of the sector’s total funding. That share is among the lowest in the world and is less than half that of the United States, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD.

The policy would also challenge the country’s image as the free-market poster child of Latin America. Chile was the first country in the region to adopt liberalizing economic reforms, in the 1970s. It now boasts the highest GDP per capita and the highest levels of human development in Latin America, says the World Bank. It also has the third highest university-enrollment rate, after Cuba and Argentina.

“The biggest challenge Chilean society faces is education,” she said in her 200-page campaign manifesto. “Inequality and segregation still persist in alarming levels.”

If carried out, the reforms would bring Chile closer in line with the rest of Latin America, where most countries offer some form of free, public higher education. Currently, most of Chile’s one million college students rely on government-subsidized loans to pay tuition, often incurring huge debt. They include the more than 100,000 people who defaulted on their loans in 2012 and who owed an average of $5,400—more than a fourth of the average annual income, according to government figures.

Sound familiar? Chile’s attempts at overhauling its higher-education financing system could provide key lessons for the current debate in the United States over college affordability. But it won’t be easy.

Homeless Couple Gets A Home On Christmas Eve, Thanks To Innovative ‘Occupy’ Group

Thanks for concrete actions that help people. More than we can hope from most people,


For many couples, the thought of living together in a 96-square-foot house sounds awful. But for Chris Derrick and Betty Ybarra, it’s a Christmas miracle.
That’s because Derrick and Ybarra have spent the better part of a year braving Madison, Wisconsin’s often-harsh climate without a roof over their head.
They’ll spend this Christmas in their own home, thanks to more than 50 volunteers with Occupy Madison, a local Wisconsin version of the original Occupy Wall Street group in New York. The group, including Derrick and Ybarra, spent the past year on an innovative and audacious plan to fight inequality in the state’s capital: build tiny homes for the homeless.
In a city where an average home for sale costs nearly $300,000, many low-income individuals simply can’t afford somewhere to live.
Indeed, in January of this year, a citywide count found 831 homeless people living in Madison, a 47 percent increase in the past 3 years. And it’s not just adults; 110 families with children were identified as well.
The “Tiny House Project” began the same month. The plan was for volunteers to build micro-homes that still include living necessities like a bed, insulation, and a toilet. The homes are heated via propane and include a pole-mounted solar panel to power the house’s light. The total cost: $3,000, paid for by private donations.

Democrats Demand Clarity On Trade Representative's Position On Tar Sands Oil - Thanks to them all.


WASHINGTON –- A group of Democratic Senators and House members expressed concern Friday that trade negotiators are trying to undermine fuel standards in the European Union so that the U.S. can export tar sands oil from the Keystone XL pipeline.

The EU has a policy known as the Fuel Quality Directive, which calls for a 6 percent reduction in emissions from transportation fuels like gasoline and diesel by 2020. As part of that, the EU wants to assign values to different types of fuel based on the emissions they generate. Tar sands oil, which has much higher emissions than conventional crude, would be assigned a higher value under the system. A letter from 21 Senators and House members cites "troubling" reports that the U.S. might be working to undermine those rules as part of the negations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

As The Huffington Post reported back in September, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman has expressed concern about EU rules that would discourage the import of oil from the Canadian tar sands. This is an issue for the U.S. right now, particularly as the Obama administration considers whether to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from Alberta down to refineries in Texas, from where it could be exported abroad.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the co-chairs of the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change created earlier this year, led the letter-writing effort.

Rick Santorum: Government-Provided Health Care Is A Plot To Kill People Who Don’t Vote The Right Way


Speaking at a Young Americans for Freedom event on Friday, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) offered an unusual assessment of what happens when “the government is going to be the principal provider of health care for the country.” “It’s actually a pretty clever system,” the former presidential candidate explained, “Take care of the people who can vote and people who can’t vote, get rid of them as quickly as possible by not giving them care so they can’t vote against you.”


This guy has run for president twice and has come close to getting the nomination???

Hey, Media: White People Are Poor, Too

As the article notes, a disproportionate quantity of minorities are poor and this is a problem, but it is still a minority of poor people and representing poor people as overwhelmingly minorities just gets into the stereotypes.


According to Census figures in 2013, 18.9 million whites are poor. That’s 8 million more poor white people than poor black people, and more than 5 million more than those who identify as Latino. A majority of those benefiting from programs like food stamps and Medicaid are white, too.

But somehow our picture of poverty is different, and the media tends to tell us a different story. A recent New York Times story, “Cut in Food Stamps Forces Hard Choices on Poor,” included only pictures of African Americans and Latinos from the Bronx, N.Y., and a number of Southern states. In October, the Times published another story about the impact of states’ rejection of the Medicaid expansion that’s part of the Affordable Care Act.

The images accompanying that story were also all of black or Latino families. Was that because only blacks and Latinos receive Medicaid? No.
This stereotype, like most stereotypes, harms black people in myriad ways, especially because the political right has linked poverty with moral failure as a trope to undermine public support for government programs—remember Ronald Reagan’s welfare queen? These tactics didn’t end in the 1980s. Last week, for example, Fox News’ Brad Blakeman said the government was "like a drug dealer" peddling "dependency" to food-stamp recipients.

Social scientists and others have long made the observation that the media over-emphasizes people of color in coverage of poverty and government benefits. But if the message hasn’t yet reached even the New York Times, it clearly needs to be said again.
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