US News: Daily Digest From Guardian Liberty Voice for July 21, 2014

US News

The US News Daily Digest from Guardian Liberty Voice for July 18, 2014 starts off with the earth-shaking news that earthquake risks in the United States are increasing in the eastern half of the country, and in parts of the Midwest.  The battle for marriage equality has won another round, as a Denver court supports a ruling that overturns the Oklahoma ban on same sex marriages. A panel that recommends sentencing standards for American courts is considering an across the board reduction in the penalties for non-violent drug-related crime in a move that could result in releasing 47,000 inmates. For-profit institutions of higher learning are getting increased scrutiny as investigators question whether students are getting well-educated or just well fleeced.

New Earthquake Map Shows Risk Potential Over Next 50 Years

A new earthquake map from the United States Geological Survey spreads the bad news about earthquakes around the country, indicating that 42 states now have increased earthquake risks for the next 50 years. Scientists are predicting increased risks for Virginia (remember the quake that cracked the Washington Monument?), South Carolina, Oklahoma and Colorado, but earthquakes are not unknown in New England. In 1755, an estimated 6.3 shock swept across the Massachusetts Bay colony and, among other things, collapsed the narrow isthmus connecting Gloucester, Massachusetts from the mainland, turning the promontory into an island according to local legends.

Gay Marriage Wins Another Round in Oklahoma

Same sex marriages have won another round today. Three justices sitting for the U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver have upheld a previous ruling by a federal court striking down Oklahoma’s gay marriage ban, reversing a state constitutional amendment that was approved by more than 75 percent of the Oklahomans who vote on the measure in 2004. As with previous rulings on gay marriage bans in Utah and Colorado, the court stayed the implementation of its 2-1 ruling pending further appeals.

In each case to date, beginning with the Supreme Court’s rejection of the Defense of Marriage Act, the rulings have been on the “equal protection” and “due process” clauses of the U.S, Constitution, which guarantee that all citizens are entitled to equal protection under the law, and have the right to enjoy due process, which means they have a right to a hearing about any matter on the basis of the merits to their argument, rather than their membership in a particular class of individuals. In simpler terms, both state and federal courts are ruling that the states do not have the right to selectively discriminate against a particular group of citizens – in this case, gay people – by denying them a right enjoyed by the members of other groups in society.

Liberalization of Drug Laws Forcing Rethinking of Punishment

As the United States continues to wind down the draconian restrictions on the use of recreational pharmaceuticals, the U.S. Sentencing Commission is sending out signals indicating that major changes to drug violation sentences are in the offing. The early release program with cut short sentences for more than 46,000 inmates who, if they were being sentenced today, would not have received the long prison sentences that were originally inflicted by a government obsessed with the “war on drugs” rhetoric of the Nixon administration.

The reduction in recommended sentences for specific violations is being reduced across the board, some say, in a last-ditch effort to prevent the liberalization movement from completely eradicating some of the more draconian laws. On average, it is expected that offenders currently serving sentences for non-violent drug related crimes will see their time in stir reduced by 25 months or more.

The move is also motivated by the chronically overpopulated conditions throughout the prison system, which have resulted in court ordered releases based upon claims of “unusual punishment” due to the overcrowded conditions. The United States is currently tied for first place with the Seychelles Islands for the highest incarceration rate in the world, both with 707 inmates for each 100,000 residents. For the US that works out to more than 2.2 prison inmates. China, for comparison, has just 124 inmates per 100,000, which work out to 1.675 million prisoners. If you include political prisoners that number rises to 172 per 100,000 or 2.3 million.

Why For-Profit Education Institutions Should Be Sent to Detention

With the collapse of Corinthian Colleges for-profit network of private undergraduate and graduate schools, the entire for-profit education industry is coming in for some long overdue oversight, with charges of price-gouging, overselling and under-delivery of educational services increasingly becoming both public and congressional concerns. With the total student loan debt in the United States now reaching $1.3 trillion, the vast majority of young college graduates today are saddled with monthly student loan payments that, in some cases, make it impossible for those same young professionals to purchase homes….or re-enroll for graduate degrees according to several US news outlets.

In many cases, the educational services from the for-profit institutions were oversold by implying that high paying jobs were out there waiting for their graduates to snap them up, but many former students are discovering a very different reality, as their payments get deducted from much lower paying jobs than they were expecting to get.

This problem, however, not limited to the for-profit education sector. Some economists have warned parents and students to take a cold hard look at the education they are shelling out big bucks for, because the disciplines for which they are being educated might no longer exist by the time the students enter the workforce. One economist took the cost of attending a first class non-profit college for four years – which came to more than $120,000 – and tested the value of that education by taking the same amount of money and theoretically investing it in a fast food franchise. The fast food franchisee made out like a bandit compared to the wage slave because, even if their annual incomes were the same, the fast-food franchisee always ended up taking home more money because of the tax breaks that business owners get. In April of 2014, The Economist published an article suggesting that a student who directly into the workforce at 18, rather than going to college, would be much better off at age 36 than a peer who went through four to eight years of schooling before getting their first jobs.

Short Takes From Around The Web

Chris Christie is spending a lot of time outside of New Jersey, making himself available just in case a majority of the backroom boys who control the Republican Party develop collective amnesia to the point where they forget that Christie is damaged goods.  He’s not right enough for the Tea Party, and not mainstream enough for the rank and file of the Republican party. He is a great choice for a crossover candidate, if the Republican party had a shot at converting independent voters into Christie voters in 2016 but that is a real long-shot for Christie.  He may be obnoxious enough for New Jersey, but that might just make him too obnoxious for California, and California has a lot more electoral than New Jersey does.

 Hillary Clinton may be the titular frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, but that’s because there is no one else of equal stature on the horizon who wants the job. That does not mean, however, that Clinton is the best possible candidate and, at the rate her skeletons keep crawling out of her closets. In the early running, with Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden the only second choices on the horizon, anyone else throwing a hat in the ring for 2016 is basically volunteering to be vice president. When asked about her plans for 2016, Clinton’s stock answer is to defer any discussion about 2016 until the 2014 campaign has run its course, which is a very presidential thing to say. When asked about her campaign platform, she replies that it will be very specific, but refuses to specify it, which is the same statement she had made to US news organizations across the country when the subject comes up.

 Elizabeth Warren keeps claiming that she is not interested in running for president, but she keeps crisscrossing the country, making campaign appearances in Red states with Democratic senators, collecting IOUs every time she makes a speech.  That is a win-win scenario for Warren. Even if she chooses not to challenge Clinton for the presidential nomination, those debts will give her stature, and power, as a Senator. In the meantime, the whispers are saying that Warren is making quite an impression with her neo-populist pitch. The biggest thing going against her is that Democrats remember the last two times they followed Massachusetts presidential candidate into battle, and neither of those battles turned out well for the Dems.

The US News Daily Digest from Guardian Liberty Voice for July 18, 2014

 

Sources:

Sci Tech Today
USA Today
ABC News
The Street
The Aspen Times
Daily Mail Online

Your Thoughts?