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State of The Union | EnviroDems

In his State of the Union address Tuesday President Obama tugged at our
heartstrings when speaking of our most precious resource: our children. President
Obama was talking about children in the context of gun control and the recent
tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. But guns are not the only things threatening
future generations. As Obama explained, the effects of climate change are already
impacting us. Superstorms, droughts, bizarre weather patterns – these are not
mere coincidences. They are the consequences of our energy use and consumption
patterns.
Undoubtedly, gun control must be addressed, but the threats of climate
change will be far wider reaching to many more people, both in our nation and
others. Every second that passes without meaningful action to mitigate climate
change puts our descendants in greater jeopardy. Obama alluded to taking action
to react to climate change – and we will certainly have to do many things to adapt
to our changing Earth. But we need to mitigate it as much as possible. Moreover,
Obama’s discussion of climate change was puny in comparison to his vision of
energy independence. Energy is obviously an important component of climate
change action, but it is just one component. So many different things need to be
done. It’s daunting, it’s challenging. But opening up new oil drilling operations
won’t do anything to mitigate climate change. Energy independence does not equal
sustainable energy policy.
We need jobs in the here and now. We need stricter gun control. Many want
immigration reform, debt reduction, tax reform, etc. But we are ignoring the biggest
threat to our nation’s most valuable resources. Energy independence is important,
but the United States needs to do so much more, and waiting is only making the
situation worse. If Congress does not act soon and in an appropriate measure,
President Obama simply must take executive action. He needs to put the “greatest
nation on Earth” on the path to helping save said Earth.

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First 2012 Presidential Debate Live Blog

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Michigan Daily | Obama signs bill extending lower student loan rates for one year

By Steve Zoski

Published July 12, 2012

President Barack Obama has spoken about making college more affordable, delivering financial aid reform and protecting students from student loan interest rate increases throughout this election year.

On July 6, Obama signed a bill that, in addition to authorizing $100 billion in funding for transportation projects, will direct $6.7 billion to delay the increase of the rate on subsidized Stafford student loans for undergraduates from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent interest for one year.

The bill came to Obama’s desk after passing the Senate 74-19 and the House 373-52. No Democrats voted against the legislation, which was also supported by Republicans.

According to USA Today, before he signed legislation extending the lower rate for one year, Obama had to sign a one-week extension on June 29. If congress hadn’t created legislation to extend the rate, it would have reverted to the 6.8-percent rate. Graduate students and undergraduates with unsubsidized student loans already pay the 6.8-percent rate.

According to The New York Times, the rate had been at 6.8 percent until 2007, when legislation reduced the rate to 3.4 percent until a July 1, 2012 deadline.

The New York Times added that congressional Democrats had introduced the legislation in 2007 to bring the rate to 3.4 percent with low- and middle-income undergraduates in mind.

Throughout the past year, both Obama and University President Mary Sue Coleman discussed the value of making higher education more affordable for students.

Last December, an open letter that Coleman sent to Obama calling for affordable higher education was released to the public. Obama then addressed the need for college affordability in his State of the Union address on Jan. 24.

In the speech, Obama said college affordability is vital.

“Higher education can’t be a luxury — it is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford,” Obama said.

Three days later on Jan. 27, Obama spoke at the University’s Al Glick Field House, where he called for financial aid reform.

Coleman issued a press release in support of Obama’s remarks regarding higher education in his State of the Union address, then appeared alongside Obama during his visit to the University.

On April 24, Obama held a conference call from Air Force One with reporters from various college newspapers in which he called for students to get engaged and be vocal about stopping student loan interest rates from doubling.

In the conference call, Obama, who noted that he and his wife remember their experience paying their own student loans, said student loan debt continues to grow.

“For the first time now, we’ve got Americans owing more debt on their student loans than they do on their credit cards,” Obama said.

In the conference call, Obama warned that the Stafford rates were due to double to 6.8 percent by July if students didn’t make their voices heard, adding that the issue has “never been more important.”

According to CNN, when he signed the one-year extension last week, Obama said he hoped the bipartisanship that contributed to the bill’s passage would continue.

“ ‘This is an outstanding piece of business, and I’m very appreciative of the hard work that Congress has done on it.

My hope is that this bipartisan spirit spills over into the next phase,’ Obama said, encouraging members to pass larger infrastructure measures and ‘start doing more to reduce the debt burden that our young people are experiencing,’ ” CNN reported.

Furthermore, the Associated Press reported that White House senior adviser David Plouffe sent an e-mail in which he thanked Americans for putting pressure on Congress.

“You took to Twitter and Facebook. You sent emails and talked to your friends and neighbors. And in the end, your voices made all the difference,” Plouffe wrote.

In an interview, Business senior Manish Parikh, president of the University’s Central Student Government, said the extension is a victory for college students, adding that they helped make the extension possible by taking control of their own issue.

“The president kicked off this whole tour of college affordability at the University of Michigan on January 27 and countless University of Michigan students have taken to Facebook and Twitter and written to their congressmen and elected officials and media to discuss this whole issue and the previous situation of rising college interest rates,” Parikh said. “But the students here are the real victors and the real ones who made this happen.”

Parikh said he was glad the extension would help save many University students nearly $1000 this year. But he said measures to make college more affordable are as pressing as ever, noting that many University students already have debt.

“The average University of Michigan student is accruing $27,828 of average debt when (they) graduate,” Parikh said.

Parikh added that he would like to see the issue resolved on a longer-term basis so debate over extending the rates doesn’t need to happen year after year.

“Stafford loan interest rates should be permanently kept at the low level of 3.4 percent, as opposed to these low rate-shaving to be renewed on a yearly basis, without which they will double,” Parikh said. “The real discussion regarding these interest rates we should be having is about further reducing them, rather than discussing the possibility of raising them.”

In an e-mail to The Michigan Daily, LSA junior Lauren Coffman, the communications director for the University’s chapter of the College Democrats, wrote that she was displeased that Republicans made deliberation over the bill take this long, but added that the bipartisanship shown was a promising sign for students.

“It’s unfortunate that Congressional Republicans allowed us to get to the point that not passing the bill was a concern, but it is promising to see legislators from both sides of the aisle coming together to do what’s best for students,” Coffman wrote.

Coffman added that she hopes the bill is only the start of reforms from the President, if re-elected, as well as increased awareness toward making college more affordable.

“Hopefully this bill will lead to increased awareness of student debt, and reforms which will give recent graduates more freedom to pursue career opportunities that could greatly improve the quality of life for our nation’s citizens,” Coffman wrote. “The president is acutely aware of the toll that student debt can take, having recently paid off his own student loans, and I’m sure we’ll see more of his dedication to increased access to education throughout the campaign season.”

In an interview, LSA senior Rachel Jankowski, chair of the University’s chapter of the College Republicans, said it was good to see higher education as a priority, but added that the legislation isn’t fixing the actual problem.

“I think it’s great that we worked together — both Democrats and Republicans — to pass the bill, especially on something as important as education,” Jankowski said.

“But I think the reason why a lot of Republicans may not have been completely for it is because it doesn’t really do much to address the cost of tuition.”

Jankowski added that the cost of education continues to rise and said subsidizing interest rates isn’t going to fix the rise of higher education.

“It’s incredibly short-term, and eventually those interest rates are going to most likely go up again because you can only sustain that for so long and you still have the underlying issue, so it really does nothing to solve the actual problem.”

In an e-mail to the Daily, Pamela Fowler, executive director of the University’s Office of Financial Aid, said University students will benefit from the legislation.

“We had estimated the average student, who borrows each year for an undergraduate degree and repays that loan over the standard 10-year repayment period, would have paid $1,000 more in interest if the legislation had not gone forward. Saving $1,000 over 10 years will mean a lot to our students,” Fowler wrote. “Let’s hope we can get long-term interest rate relief for students — and soon.”

-Editor in Chief Jacob Axelrad contributed to this report.

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Michigan Daily | US Supreme Court Upholds Affordable Care Act

By Jacob Axelrad

Published June 28, 2012

Today, the landmark decision to uphold President Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act ensured students won’t need to worry about health care coverage in their first job out of college — they can now remain on their parents’ plans until the age of 26, as specified by the law.

In a statement issued today, Ora Pescovitz, the University’s executive vice president for medical affairs, said the University’s health system must now “move forward” as it continues to make health care more cost-efficient for students.

“We look forward to working in partnership with the federal government and local partners to create a better national health care system,” Pescovitz said.

In the 5-4 ruling by the Supreme Court, the majority faction comprised Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

The ruling upheld the constitutionality of the individual mandate, “which requires most Americans to maintain ‘minimum essential’ health insurance coverage.”

The law says that Americans who do not have health coverage by 2014 will have to pay a penalty. A journal entry by Evan Caminker, the dean of the University’s law school, was also cited in the Supreme Court’s decision.

Another provision the Supreme Court ruled on is the expansion of Medicaid.

“(The provision) expands the scope of the Medicaid program and increases the number of individuals the States must cover,” according to the decision.

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald wrote in an e-mail interview that multiple aspects of the act are already being carried out by the University.

“Those (aspects) include such features as no lifetime limit on health care benefits; coverage for adult children until age 26; and elimination of co-pays on most preventive health care,” he wrote. “U-M health care did not have a provision to deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition.”

Kara Gavin, a spokeswoman for University of Michigan Health System, wrote in an e-mail interview that UMHS is already taking steps to lower costs in reaction to the passage of the law.

“We have been very focused on using ‘lean thinking’, a concept borrowed from the auto industry, to optimize clinical and support functions for better efficiency, quality and patient experience,” she wrote. “We also continue to find ways to save money through energy efficiency improvements – 15 projects completed in 2011 are expected to save $528,000 in energy costs this year alone.”

In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Law Prof. Samuel Bagenstos stressed the law’s importance for young people because its reforms will grant extended coverage to people on parents’ health care plans as well as the ability to buy insurance without a pre-existing condition.

“(The law) is important to people in their twenties in particular, because that had been a moment when people lost health coverage,” Bagenstos said. “They lost the ability to be on their parents’ health coverage, and now they will retain that ability.”

Mark Fendrick, co-director of the University’s Center for Value-Based Insurance Design, said in an interview with The Michigan Daily that he thinks the age limit change will benefit millions of students.

“That’s one of the most attractive elements of the Affordable Care Act,” Fendrick said.

But according to Vincent Hutchings, an associate professor at the Univeristy’s Institute for Social Research’s Center for Political Studies, the law provides some good benefits but does little to change core issues, such as resolving racial and socio-economic disparities.

“The issue is whether it addresses the fundamental problem with health care and helps to address longstanding health care inequities across class and racial groups in this country — and I think the answer there is probably no,” he said.

Hutchings added that Americans spend significantly higher amounts on healthcare than citizens of other nations, but he doesn’t see that decreasing because of the bill.

“I don’t think this is going to significantly address those disparities,” Hutchings said. “To the extent that that imbalance remains, we may have only succeeded in kicking the can down the road and not solving the fundamental problem.”

Lauren Coffman, the communications director for the University’s chapter of the College Democrats, said she’s happy with the law currently standing.

“I think there were a lot of great suggestions from members of the House and Senate before this bill was passed,” Coffman said. “I think it really ensures a bright future for our health care industry and our nation’s citizens.”

Managing Editor Giacomo Bologna contributed to this report.

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Daily Daily- 3/22

Disclaimer: The expressed views are solely reflective of the author, and in no way represent UMCD, MFCD, MDP, the anonymous OurMichigan Source, or the CSG (which I hear is currently passing a resolution demanding world peace).

Happy Thursday! I am currently listening to a youMICH CSG candidate talk about himself in my SOC 102 class, and, because of this, I have your Daily Daily.

+ The New York Times front page is devoted to the CSG election, so I am inclined to believe that it is real, it is happening, and, as a result, I will be voting for Kevin Mersol-Barg and Amy Navaab today!

+ Daily front page story about an email sent to the Greek community about certain CSG candidates’ alleged anti-Semitic views(which, in his defense, he denies). I was worried when I read the title “Email slams candidates,” because I thought that the Daily, through heavy-duty investigation, obtained a copy of the scathing email that I wrote about the Students for Puppies’ views on cats.

+ Our very own Robert Bowen lodged 8 complaints yesterday for election violations. The article does not mention the complaint he lodged against Vulture for West Wing losing in the first round of its Best Drama Bracket.

+ Affordable Care Act turns 2 years old! w00t

+ Crime note entitled “Rough Housing.” I think it is a bit extreme for the Daily to call North Campus housing criminal…

+ There is an ad for an open casting call for the Real World 28 on page 3 of the Daily. Apparently, they heard about the CSG election, which, to quote Andrew Samberg, is “as real as it gets.”

+ Great From the Daily article today!

+ I am not going to talk about the sports, because I am bitter about how horribly my bracket is doing. This is the last time that I pick teams to win sports based on how much I like the school’s mascot (Full disclaimer: I’m Team Athens when it comes to the Peloponnesian War, so I took the MSU Spartans out in the first round).

Transitioning from the snark about CSG, I recommend that all of you vote today. You can find the endorsements of the UM College Democrats here. It is actually important! Come to KAT tonight in the Pond Room at 8:00! Kthxbye.

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CSG Endorsements | Winter 2012

 Our endorsements are based on how much work these candidates have done for progressive causes as well as the goals they have for the upcoming year. After careful consideration, we are proud to endorse the following candidates who we feel best represent our progressive values in the respective offices to which they are seeking election:
Central Student Government – President and Vice President:
+ Kevin Mersol-Barg and Amy Navaab, Super Endorsement

Central Student Government – LSA Representatives:
+ Nessma Bashi, Super Endorsement
+ Daniel Morales, Super Endorsement
+ Alex Ngo, Super Endorsement
+ Andrea Alajbegovic
+ Luz Meza
+ Erica Searcy
+ Marcela Barba
Central Student Government – College of Engineering Representative:
+ Whitney Smith
Central Student Government – School of Art and Design Representative:
+ Sarah Brennan
Central Student Government – School of Music, Theater, and Dance Representative:
+ Nick Skardarasy
DPS Oversight:
+ Connor Caplis, Super Endorsement

LSA Student Government – President and Vice President:
+ Caroline Canning and Melissa Burns
LSA Student Government – Representatives:
+ Carly Manes, Super Endorsement
+ Corey Walsh
Polls will open at 12:00AM Wednesday, March 21 and remain open until 11:59PM on Thursday, March 22. Please go tovote.umich.edu and cast your ballot for our candidates!
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Transitions in Transit

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Gold Start Chart 03.14.12

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Michigan Daily | At rally, state officials urge student activism

By Adam Rubenfire

March 10, 2012

In the 2008 presidential election, the youth vote played a record role in the election of President Barack Obama. With the 2012 election just months away, campus organizations from an array of diverse backgrounds are lauding the importance of student involvement in the campaign.

About 40 students from the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University attended a rally in Angell Hall Friday evening that included speeches from Sen. Carl Levin (D–Mich.), U.S. Rep. Hansen Clarke (D–Mich.), state Rep. Jeff Irwin (D–Ann Arbor) and state Rep. Fred Durhal Jr. (D–Detroit). The University’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Central Student Government’s Voice Your Vote Commission co-hosted the event, which centered on encouraging political activism among high school and college students.

Levin, who spoke first, emphasized the importance for students to be politically active and participate in the voting process, especially to bolster the liberal vote following the Republican surge to take control of Congress in 2010.

In an interview after his speech, Levin said even on issues of higher education, students are often unable to grasp the effect of politics on their daily lives.

“Young people frequently don’t understand what the difference is, what difference it makes whether they vote or not,” Levin said.

Levin said high school and college students played an unprecedented role in electing Obama four years ago. He compared student support for Obama to that of former President John F. Kennedy, noting that youth support for Kennedy — which was visible at his famous Peace Corps speech on the steps of the Michigan Union in 1960 — was likely surpassed by Obama’s 2008 campaign.

“You can’t duplicate that; you can’t do that every election,” Levin said. “But you can protect what’s important, and that’s what I believe the energy the Obama program makes a difference in.”

Durhal, who is also chair of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus, said when there is a low voter turnout, elections fail to effectively represent the opinions of all Americans.

“The minority of folk are determining who the majority of leaders are,” Durhal said. “A small number (is) making the decision for the mass number.”

Durhal said it’s important that people of diverse backgrounds participate in the political process.

“All (backgrounds) have to be fairly represented,” Durhal said. “And it cannot happen when you stay home and don’t participate.”

Irwin emphasized to students the importance of each and every vote, providing the example of the 2010 election of University alum Yousef Rabhi, who won his seat on the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners by two votes.

Irwin stressed that students should voice their opinions to their elected officials, particularly issues that directly impact them like the recent debate over whether the University’s graduate student research assistants should be able to unionize.

“We want to hear from you,” Irwin said. “We want to hear from students at the University of Michigan.”

Clarke similarly urged students to voice their opinions against rising student debt.

“There are some people who have been paying their student loans for 10, 20, 30 years,” Clarke said.

On Thursday, Clarke introduced H.R. 4170, the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012, which states that if student loan recipients make payments equal to 10 percent of their discretionary income for a period of 10 years, the remaining balance of their federal student loan debt will be forgiven.

“It’s time for Congress to stand for the rights of student loan borrowers,” Clarke said in a speech on the House floor Thursday. “It’s time to forgive these student loan debts.”

Debbie Dingell, wife of Congressman John Dingell and a prominent political figure in the state, also attended the event.

In an interview after the rally, Dingell said issues such as jobs, education and health care are especially important to young adults and they should play an active role in determining policy.

“All those decisions are being made, and young people need to be involved,” Dingell said. “They’re a very important part of our population, and you can make or break and make the difference in an election.”

Dingell said the power of campus groups such as the University’s chapter of the NAACP to mobilize students to vote and become politically active is an important aspect of student civic involvement.

“This is a community,” Dingell said. “It’s knowing that you’re a part, it’s individual-to-individual contact, it’s understanding what your interests as a community are and exercising that. We need to be seeing this across campus, and the women need to talk about what the issues are. (We’re) organized by different interests, but people with common interests should be organizing, talking about how they make a difference.”

Janee Brown, president of the University’s chapter of NAACP, told students at the event that they need to hold their representatives accountable for cuts to financial aid that have taken place at the state and federal levels.

“Your way of affecting your education is by voting for different officials who are actually making a difference,” Brown said.

Todd Flynn, chair of Central Student Government’s Voice Your Vote Commission, said political apathy on campus is the leading reason to why students at the University do not vote.

“We think that a lot of that apathy comes from a lack of information,” Flynn said. “Students don’t understand how they’re affected by decisions made in seemingly faraway places by people they haven’t met.”

Lauren Coffman, communications chair of the University’s chapter of the College Democrats, stressed that in light of recent policy proposals by Republicans that would restrict access to birth control and presidential hopeful Rick Santorum’s criticism of Obama’s college accessibility efforts, it’s crucially important for America’s youth to speak up.

“Tell (politicians) that as a woman, you’re not going to stand by while there are attacks going on with your right to health care and your right to contraception,” Coffman said. “Tell them that as a student, you’re not going to allow politicians to tell you that it’s elitist to think that everyone has the same right to education that you have here at the University. And tell them that when a presidential candidate says that we should let our schools go bankrupt, that as a Michigander and a Wolverine, you’re not going to stand for that.”

CSG President DeAndree Watson said the Voice Your Vote Commission is working to educate students on the importance of the student vote.

“It’s important for us to vote because, if we need anything changed in the state, even in this country, it’s going to happen through us collectively voting and making sure we are putting people in office who reflect our values and will work on our behalf,” Watson said.

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Kick-Ass Thursday with Professor Juan Cole | February 16, 2012

We welcome all Dems to join us this Thursday, February 16 at 8 PM in the Pond Room at the Michigan Union for Kick-Ass Thursday with Professor Juan Cole!

Professor Cole is widely recognized for his study of and commentary on Middle Eastern affairs. He has written numerous books, has appeared regularly in the media (including on the Colbert Report), and has maintained a popular blog. He was a promenent critic of the Iraq war; indeed, a former CIA official alleged this past July that the Bush administration sought the agency’s assistance in smearing him!

Professor Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History. For additional information, please see his website or Wikipedia entry.

We hope to see you all there! Don’t forget to attend our event on Facebook!

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