Monthly Archives: March 2010

Obama Signs Overhaul of Student Loan Program

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — President Obama signed legislation on Tuesday to expand college access for millions of young Americans by revamping the federal student loan program in what he called “one of the most significant investments in higher education since the G.I. Bill.”

Mr. Obama went to a community college where the wife of his vice president teaches to draw attention to the student loan overhaul attached to the final piece of health care legislation that passed last week. In signing the bill, Mr. Obama put the final touches on his health care program but used the occasion to highlight the education provisions.

“That’s two major victories in one week,” he told students and guests at the Alexandria campus of Northern Virginia Community College, where Jill Biden teaches English. While he praised the health care overhaul, the president said, “what’s gotten overlooked amid all the hoopla, all the drama of last week, is what’s happened with education.”

The new law will eliminate fees paid to private banks to act as intermediaries in providing loans to college students and use much of the nearly $68 billion in savings over 11 years to expand Pell grants and make it easier for students to repay outstanding loans after graduating. The law also invests $2 billion in community colleges over the next four years to provide education and career training programs to workers eligible for trade adjustment aid after dislocation in their industries.

The law will increase Pell grants along with inflation in the next few years, which should raise the maximum grant to $5,975 from $5,550 by 2017, according to the White House, and it will also provide 820,000 more grants by 2020.

Students who borrow money starting in July 2014 will be allowed to cap repayments at 10 percent of income above a basic living allowance, instead of 15 percent. Moreover, if they keep up payments, their balances will be forgiven after 20 years instead of 25 years — or after 10 years if they are in public service, like teaching, nursing or serving in the military.

Mr. Obama portrayed the overhaul of the student loan program as a triumph over an “army of lobbyists,” singling out Sallie Mae, the nation’s largest student lender, which he said spent $3 million on lobbying to stop the changes. “For almost two decades, we’ve been trying to fix a sweetheart deal in federal law that essentially gave billions of dollars to banks,” he said. The money, he said, “was spent padding student lenders’ pockets.”

But Sallie Mae said the law would cost jobs, telling news outlets that it may have to eliminate a third of its 8,500 positions nationwide. Senator Lamar Alexander, a Republican whose state of Tennessee is home to big players in the private student lending industry, said the changes over all would cost 31,000 private-sector jobs.

In a statement, Mr. Alexander said students would be overcharged on their loans with the proceeds to be used to pay for the health care law, and he bemoaned the government’s getting more deeply into the lending business. “The Obama administration’s motto,” he said, “is turning out to be: ‘If we can find it in the Yellow Pages, the government ought to try to do it.’ ”

The House Republican leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, criticized both the health and education components of the bill, calling them “two job-killing government takeovers that are already hurting our economy.”

Mr. Boehner added, “As the White House continues to ‘sell’ this new law, we are seeing the same pattern we’ve seen for the past year: the more the American people learn about it, the less they like it.”

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Can The Stimulus Bill Help Promote Wellness?

The economic stimulus bill wending its way through Congress includes up to $5.8 billion for disease prevention and wellness initiatives.

President Obama says the funding would provide access to vaccinations and fund community initiatives to tackle obesity, smoking and preventable chronic diseases.

But an ongoing debate is taking place as to whether these prevention programs would actually save money in the long run.

The Expense Of Prevention

More than 70 percent of health-care dollars are spent treating a handful of conditions: diabetes, heart disease, asthma and depression.

But often people don’t get the evidence-based treatments that are proven to help manage these conditions.

A large clinical trial, for example, that included about 3,000 people who had blood sugar levels in the pre-diabetes range makes this point well. When these people began exercising about two and half hours a week — and shed an average of nine pounds by adopting lower fat and lower sugar diets — they cut their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by more than 50 percent.

These interventions can cost lots of money. The people in the study had access to nutritional counselors and exercise instructors.

Creating More Efficient, Cost-Effective Programs

But experts say there’s a way to scale these programs more efficiently.

“We know how to translate these programs into community settings where they will be less costly and just as effective,” says Jeff Levi of the health advocacy organization Trust for America’s Health.

Not everyone is sold on the idea that these kinds of investments will stimulate the economy or have long-lasting effects.

Economist John Seater of North Carolina State University says if things like diabetes-prevention programs work, then that’s encouraging. But he questions how they would be sustained.

“I’d be very skeptical that a very large fraction of the money the government is talking about spending is going to end up in programs of that would later be so wonderful that people would keep them going on their own without the government,” he says.

Creating Jobs And Saving Money?

In the short term, an infusion of cash into community health programs could spur some job creation.

These initiatives would require hiring trainers and administrators, says health economist Louise Russell of Rutgers University.

“That’s not going to create a lot of jobs,” says Russell. “But that’s how jobs are going to be created: one at a time.”

Lots of research suggests that investments in prevention-oriented initiatives do not save money — particularly in the short term.

“There are plenty of preventive interventions that are good value,” says Louise Russell. “They bring good health at a reasonable price.”

She cites vaccinations and smoking-cessation programs as two examples.

“But there is very little evidence that it’s going to reduce the amount of money we spend on medical care,” Russell says.

Trust for America’s Health, Jeff Levi’s organization, argues that investing in community initiatives could save more than $16 billion annually within five years. This would be a return of $5.60 for every $1 invested.

The group’s analysis is published in a report called Prevention for a Healthier America . The group collaborated with economists at the Urban Institute and experts at the New York Academy of Medicine.

Trust for America’s Health views the stimulus dollars aimed at prevention as a down payment on health-care reform.

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POLICE CAUGHT ON TAPE BEATING 15- YEAR OLD

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A Newark, N.J. undercover police
officer was caught on tape as he
roused and then punched 15 year old
Travis Retrey. The youth who has
never had any issues with the
police was sitting in front of the
apartment building waiting on a
friend when he was assaulted.

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NO SATURDAY DELIVERIES

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The Post Office is fast becoming a
thing of the past with e-mails and
blackberrys taking over. According
to reports, the proposal to cut
weekend mail deliveries being made
by the Postmaster, would save $5.1
billion annually by 2020 and
eliminate the equivalent of 49,000
full and part-time jobs.

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CENSUS DIRECTOR APOLOGIZES

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The word “Negro” may no longer
appear on a US census after this
year, thanks to a woman who took
offense to the term and voiced her
opinion directly to the Census
Bureau Director on live television.
The whole thing went down on C-SPAN
Friday when a caller challenged the
use of the dated term “Negro” to
describe Americans of African
descent, which appears on the 2010
census alongside the terms “African-
American” and “Black.”

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JANET ADDED TO ESSENCE MUSIC FEST

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Janet Jackson has been booked as
the third and final headliner for
the Essence Music Festival this
Fourth of July weekend–July 2, 3
and 4–in New Orleans. The actress-
singer will make her festival debut
on July 2, according to an
announcement today from Essence.

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Young Jack Thriller So Disrespectful News [EP. 6]

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JayUno – No Time 4 No Bull$h!t / Y Wouldn’t I

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Jay-Z On “Detox”?!?!

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It seems as though every time everyone is throwing in the towel and have essentially given up on looking forward to Dr. Dre’s third official album, Detox, the doctor continues to find ways to make people jump back on the bandwagon. Courtesy of credible source, Michael Yo, there is word that Dr. Dre was able to feature Jay-Z on a track for the “upcoming” project. And just when everybody STOPPED caring about a new album, this has to happen. On top of that, the actual record should come soon as it is expected to drop within the week and that Interscope records has been heavily excited about the collaboration. itsMichaelYo: Look for it this week New Jay Z and Dr Dre!!! Can’t wait : ) Whenever a man must resort to a smiley face, it must be something that is worth the wait. For those who were curious, Michael Yo is featured on E! News and The Daily News along with being a radio personality on station Y100 in Miami. The track is rumored to be an “uptempo” cut and might serve as Dre’s first single. The title, however, has yet to be released. So…does this mean that Detox might have the potential to actually drop in 2010? While the news might have placed Dre back on the radar for some fans as something to look forward to, seeing is believing, so show and prove.

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Erykah Badu – “Window Seat”

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International Manhunt On For Columbian Beauty Queen Turned Druglord

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Ricky Martin — ‘I Am A Fortunate Homosexual’

Ricky Martin

has revealed that he is a gay man.

Martin — who has dodged questions of his sexuality for years — just posted the following message on his official website: “I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am.”

Martin says the birth of his twin sons led to his decision to come out — and according to the singer,

“To keep living as I did up until today would be to indirectly diminish the glow that my kids where [sic] born with.”
Ricky’s kids were born in August 2008.

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Diddy & Dirty Money Ft. T.I. – “Hello Good Morning”

Diddy-Dirty Money and T.I.

Diddy just wants to make you dance. The music mogul and his Dirty Money crew keep the party going until the early morn’ on “Hello Good Morning,” the T.I.-assisted single from his Last Train to Paris album, pulling into stores June 22. The Danja-produced, Rico Love-penned number boasts a thumping bassline and Puff’s signature ad-libs (“Let’s go, let’s work”). Diddy will perform the song live for the first time on Wednesday’s episode of “American Idol.”

Download: Diddy-Dirty Money f/ T.I. – “Hello Good Morning”

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Stacey Dash Makes Cameo In New Miller Light Commercial…

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RED CAFE PERFORMS @ GHOSTFACE & RAEKWON SHOW IN NYC

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