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Hasan Minhaj Testifies as House Committee Debates Protections for Student Loan Borrowers

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  • The House Financial Services Committee held a hearing on Tuesday to discuss protections for student loan borrowers, as well as other proposals that would ease student loan burdens.
  • Comedian Hasan Minhaj testified during the hearing, noting that two-thirds of jobs require some college experience and that the cost of tuition has exponentially increased since the previous generation.
  • Minhaj also blasted loan providers for “predatory” behaviors like convincing students to take out higher-costing loans.

House Committee Looks at Student Loan Protection Bills

The U.S. House Financial Services Committee listened to testimony in a hearing on Tuesday as they debated nine different potential bills that would afford stronger protections to people taking out student loans. 

Though the committee did not vote on any of the bills, if passed, they would create a borrower bill of rights and would help borrowers buy their first homes. 

Another bill, the CFPB Student Loan Integrity and Transparency Act, would strengthen the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s oversight by requiring it and the U.S. Department of Education to share student loan information with each other. It would also force lenders to work with an ombudsman, which is a government advocate for students struggling to repay federal education loans.

The Student Loan Servicing Reform and Consumer Protection Act, another proposed bill, would require lenders to provide accurate repayment options and resources for struggling student borrowers. It would also prevent lenders from omitting or misrepresenting loan serving information and would set minimum industry standards for all student loan transactions.

Currently, U.S. student debt sits at $1.6 trillion dollars, according to Forbes. The business magazine also reports the number of people taking out student loans in the U.S. at just under 45 million. Student loans are the second-highest consumer debt behind mortgages, and 20% of borrowers are behind on their loans.

Lawsuits and student loan providers are not a new combination. Common types of student loan lawsuits involve allegations of lenders convincing students to take out higher-costing payment plans or convincing them to overuse their forbearance, which is a process that allows students to postpone their payments if they’re struggling through other financial issues.

Under U.S. law, Congress sets the repayment terms for loans.

At the hearing yesterday, Chair of the House Financial Services Committee Maxine Waters criticized the current ombudsman, who is a former top official at the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, which is a loan provider that’s been the subject of similar lawsuits and state investigations. 

On the other side of the aisle, Republican Andy Barr blamed Democratic policies for the debt. 

“I know everyone wants a bogeyman,” he said, “and the student loan servicers are a convenient bogeyman, but guess what — look in the mirror Congress. Congress created this crisis.” 

Democrats and Republicans, however, agree that there are serious issues surrounding student borrowers and debt. On Sep. 26, the House Financial Services Committee will discuss debt collection practices.

Hasan Minhaj Testimony 

During the hearing, comedian and host of Patriot Act Hasan Minhaj testified before Congress, saying that even though he himself isn’t in debt, it is a serious issue facing his generation.

“I’m 33, and growing up, it was drilled into our heads: you gotta go to college if you want a middle-class job. And we even tell kids today, ‘Look, if you don’t go to college, you might as well get a face tattoo.’ And then they point to Post Malone, and we’re like, ‘Okay, that’s one guy.’” 

Minhaj also argued that degrees are becoming a basic requirement for most jobs and that the previous generation spent far less on college.

“Two-thirds of all jobs require at least some college,” Netflix’s Patriot Act host said. “This is the standard now, and that wasn’t the case when most members of this committee were in school. And you paid far less for your degrees. That’s not speculation. We looked up where the 60 members of this committee went to college and what your school’s tuition was at that time, even adjusting for inflation, college cost way less across the board.”

Minhaj then went on to say a lot of borrowers are “treated like deadbeats, and he blamed the government for allowing “predatory” for-profit lenders to mislead borrowers. He noted that the Department of Education chooses what lenders a student uses. In turn, he said that means there’s no competition to create better services.

In February, Minhaj reported on student loans in Patriot Act, where he found that his audience, at the time of recording, had a student loan debt of over $6 million dollars.

Minhaj also referenced how desperate some people are becoming by going up to celebrities and asking them to pay off their student debt, a reference to announcements that both Taylor Swift and Lil Uzi Vert would both be paying off a few of their fans’ debt.

I think it’s a huge problem that the youth of America have to bombard their favorite rapper or pop musician and ask them to pay back their student loans. They’re not even asking for selfies anymore,” Minhaj said. “That’s how desperate student borrowers are.”

AOC’s Debt

On average, the committee graduated college 33 years ago, but one representative in the room isn’t even that old yet.

During the hearing, Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 29, said she’s still paying off her college debt and made a display by reading her payment in front of the committee.

“I literally made a student loan payment while I was sitting here at this chair,” she said, “and I looked at my balance, and it was $20,237.16. I just made a payment that took me down to $19,000, so I feel really accomplished right now.”

According to Roll Call, her debt is actually less than the average student loan debt for a Congress member. Currently, 68 members of Congress have student loan debt either for themselves or a dependent, with the average debt being around $37,000. Eight members of Congress have more than $100,000 in debt.

See what others are saying: (NBC) (USA Today) (Vulture)

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Intense White House Meeting Prompts “Meltdown” Accusations

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  • Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders walked out of a meeting with President Trump about Syria on Wednesday, with Pelosi later saying Trump had a “meltdown.”
  • Trump hit back by tweeting a picture of Pelosi at the meeting, saying she was the one who had a meltdown.
  • The post backfired when the image went viral and Pelosi made it her cover photo.
  • Both liberals and conservatives applauded her and mocked Trump for sharing a picture of Pelosi where she looked powerful, while some argued that she disrespected the president.

Democrats Walk Out

President Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) threw “meltdown” accusations at one another after Democratic leaders walked out of a meeting with the President Wednesday.

Pelosi along with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-NY) left in the middle of a meeting at the White House about Turkey and Syria after things got heated with the president.

Check out our previous coverage about the situation in Syria.

In a press conference at the White House, Pelosi said she believed Trump was upset about a resolution the House had passed earlier that day, formally condemning Trump’s decision to remove U.S. troops from Northern Syria.

She noted that the resolution had massive bipartisan support and passed with 354 votes in favor and 60 against.

“I think that vote – the size of the vote, more than 2-1 of the Republicans voted to oppose what the president did – probably got to the president. Because he was shaken up by it,” the speaker said. “And that’s why we couldn’t continue in the meeting because he was just not relating to the reality of it.” 

“What we witnessed on the part of the president was a meltdown. Sad to say,” she added later. 

Schumer chimed in as well, telling reporters that Trump was “insulting, particularly to the speaker.”

“She kept her cool completely, but he called her a third-rate politician,” he continued. “He said that there are communists involved and you guys might like that. I mean, this was not a dialogue, it was sort of a diatribe. A nasty diatribe, not focused on the facts.” 

Pelosi later said she thought Trump called her a “third-grade politician.” 

Hoyer also spoke to the way the president acted.

“We were offended deeply by his treatment of the Speaker of the House of Representatives,” he said, adding that there were “very offensive accusations being made by the President of the United States.”

“I have served with six Presidents. I have been in many, many, many meetings like this. Never have I seen a president treat so disrespectfully a co-equal branch of the government of the United States,” he continued.

Pelosi addressed the situation again later while speaking at the Capitol.

“I think now we have to pray for his health, because this was a very serious meltdown on the part of the president,” she said. 

Trump Responds

In a tweet, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said that Trump had been “measured & decisive.”

She also accused Pelosi of having “no intention of participating” in the meeting, adding, “Dem ‘leadership’ chose to storm out & whine to cameras, everyone else stayed to work on behalf of our country.”

Trump himself responded, tweeting a picture of Pelosi at the meeting with the caption, “Nervous Nancy’s unhinged meltdown!”

If Trump’s plan was to make it look like Pelosi was the one having a meltdown, it seems like that plan largely backfired. Soon after he posted that picture, Pelosi made it her Twitter cover photo.

“Thanks for the new cover photo @realDonaldTrump!”  her deputy chief of staff tweeted, sharing a screenshot of her profile.

After that, Trump appeared to try to double down in another tweet.

“Nancy Pelosi needs help fast! There is either something wrong with her ‘upstairs,’ or she just plain doesn’t like our great Country,” the president wrote. “She had a total meltdown in the White House today. It was very sad to watch. Pray for her, she is a very sick person!”

Response on Twitter

Trump’s later comment did not seem to add too much to the conversation, because, by that point, the photo had already gone viral, with #PelosiOwnsTrump, #SpeakerPelosi, and #PelosiMeltdown trending on Twitter.

A lot of Democrats and prominent liberal voices responded by applauding Pelosi, and saying Trump had inadvertently shown a picture where she came off very strong.

“Only Trump would tweet this perfect picture of his weakness & humiliation,” MSNBC‘s Lawrence O’Donnell tweeted.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and 2020 candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) also praised the speaker.

Notably, a number of conservative voices also chimed in to commend Pelosi.

“What is this thing everywhere where tough women who don’t put up with shit are ‘unhinged’?! Nancy looks like a bad bitch in control of a room entirely filled with men!”  wrote conservative commentator Meghan McCain.

Other conservatives like Republican strategist Ana Navarro-Cárdenas and conservative commentator and analyst Bill Kristol also appeared to express support for Pelosi.

However, plenty of others defended Trump.

See what others are saying: (Vox) (Newsweek) (The Washington Post)

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Internet Slams Bill O’Reilly for Doubting Story of Mom With 4 Jobs

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  • During Tuesday’s Democratic Debate, Beto O’Rourke said he had met a woman in Las Vegas who works four jobs and is raising a child with disabilities. 
  • Disgraced former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly was live-tweeting the debate and said he did not believe this story. 
  • People on the internet were quick to criticize O’Reilly for appearing out of touch with society.
  • O’Rourke also responded himself, showing a picture of him with the woman and her daughter to prove he did not make the anecdote up.

O’Reilly Live-tweets Debate

Disgraced former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly is facing backlash after accusing Beto O’Rourke of lying during the presidential debate on Tuesday. 

During the debate, the former Texas representative was asked about wealth taxes as a solution to wealth inequality. In his response, he told a story.

“I think of a woman that I met in Las Vegas, Nevada. She’s working four jobs, raising her child with disabilities, and any American with disabilities knows just how hard it is to make it and get by in this country already,” O’Rourke said. 

“Some of those jobs working for some of these corporations, she wants to know how we are going to help her,” he added, “how we’re going to make sure that her child has the care that she needs, that we strengthen protections for those with disabilities, that she just has to work one job because it pays a living wage.” 

This story caught O’Reilly’s attention. The news personality, who was let go from Fox News in 2017 after reports showed had settled multiple sexual harassment claims at the company, including one for $32 million, said he did not believe the anecdote. 

Twitter Responds to O’Reilly

O’Reilly’s tweet got a lot of backlash from those who thought it sounded out of touch. He ended up trending on Twitter as a result. Many brought up his settlements when responding to the message. 

O’Rourke’s Team Responds:

O’Rourke’s team also responded to O’Reilly. The campaign’s Digital Director, Rob Flaherty, shared a photo of O’Rourke with the woman in the story. 

“I was there. Her name was Gina.  Her daughter is named Summer,” he wrote. Here’s their picture. Asshole.”

O’Rourke shared the same photo himself.

“The problem with our economy is she has to live in her car—while a disgraced TV host like you makes millions,” the candidate said.

O’Reilly continued to live-tweet the rest of the debate. He also tweeted again about it on Wednesday morning. He has not yet acknowledged his tweet and the controversy it stirred.

See what others are saying: (NBC News) (The Hill) (Huffington Post)

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#DeleteFacebook Trends After Reports of Zuckerberg Meetings With Conservatives

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  • #DeleteFacebook trended on Twitter after Politico reported that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had been hosting informal and off-the-record dinners with prominent conservatives like Tucker Carlson, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and Ben Shapiro.
  • Facebook has recently received backlash from the left for allegedly appeasing the Trump administration, especially after the company announced a few weeks ago that anything politicians post will be exempt from the platform’s rules, including hate speech and false information.
  • 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren responded to the new rule by running her own false ads saying Zuckerberg endorsed Trump in the 2020 election.

Politico Report

#DeleteFacebook trended on Twitter Monday after Politico reported that multiple sources confirmed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had been hosting informal and off-the-record dinners with conservative pundits, journalists, and at least one lawmaker.

According to a source, the conversations at those dinners centered around “free expression, unfair treatment of conservatives, the appeals process for real or perceived unfair treatment, fact checking, partnerships, and privacy.”

A person familiar with the gatherings told Politico some of the people who attended the dinners included conservatives who have been critical of Facebook in the past, like Fox News Host Tucker Carlson, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and conservative radio talk host Hugh Hewitt.

The list also included conservative journalists like Townhall editor and Fox News contributor Guy Benson, Washington Examiner chief political correspondent and Fox News contributor Byron York, as well as conservative commentators like Ben Shapiro, among other prominent conservative voices.

A spokesperson for Graham confirmed to Politico that he had spoken with Zuckerberg, but all the others either refused to comment or did not respond.

According to Politico, the gatherings started back in July and were all held at one of Zuckerberg’s homes in California as part of “Zuckerberg’s broader effort to cultivate friends on the right amid outrage by President Donald Trump and his allies over alleged ‘bias’ against conservatives at Facebook and other major social media companies.”

#DeleteFacebook Trends on Twitter

A number of people took to Twitter to respond to the report.

Some condemned Facebook, like actress Yvette Nicole Brown, who wrote, “I stopped actively posting on @Facebook in 2016 after it was revealed that it helped elect the orange fecal smear. Now #DeleteFacebook seems like the best course of action.”

Others posted screenshots of themselves deleting Facebook.

“Zuckerburg has allowed lies to spread on his platform and it was the last straw for me,” one user wrote. “His greed is clear so I have no need for his service.” 

On the other side, some criticized the trending hashtag as hypocritical and intolerant.

“The Left is pushing the hashtag #DeleteFacebook, because Mark Zuckerberg had meetings with conservative politicians, and commentators… in an effort to make the platform less biased,” co-founder of Students for Trump Ryan Fournier wrote. “The Left give the most lip service on tolerance, yet they turn out to be the most intolerant.”

That sentiment was also echoed by conservative commentator Graham Allen.

Zuckerberg himself respond in a Facebook post. 

“To be clear, I have dinners with lots of people across the spectrum on lots of different issues all the time,” he wrote. “Meeting new people and hearing from a wide range of viewpoints is part of learning. If you haven’t tried it, I suggest you do!”

Source: Mark Zuckerberg

Partisan Debate

Facebook’s alleged efforts to work with conservatives come as the company faces mounting criticism from the Trump administration and others on the right who say Facebook is biased against conservatives.

After the 2016 election, Facebook changed its policies to try and limit the spread of false information and foreign-bought ads.

But conservatives have pushed Facebook to minimize and correct bias within those policies after a report in 2016 alleged that Facebook employees may have suppressed stories from right-leaning publications in the “Trending Topics” section.

Part of those efforts included Facebook launching a yearlong “conservative bias audit” in 2018, which was led by former Republican Senator Jon Kyl and a team from his law firm. That effort resulted in Facebook changing some advertising policies.

Other conservatives have also criticized Facebook for how it defines hate speech. President Trump himself said back in June that the U.S. should sue Facebook and Google because of bias against conservatives.

However, many have pointed out, a lot of claims that Facebook censors conservatives have been largely unsubstantiated, with those who accuse Facebook of liberal bias providing little evidence.

In fact, just this past May, conservative publications like Fox, Breitbart, and Shapiro’s Daily Wire were some of the top publishers on Facebook, according to data from Newswhip.

Those factors have pushed people on the left to condemn Facebook and Zuckerberg for caving to appease the Trump administration.

“The discussion in Silicon Valley is that Zuckerberg is very concerned about the Justice Department, under Bill Barr, bringing an enforcement action to break up the company,” an anonymous cybersecurity researcher and former government official based in Silicon Valley told Politico.

“So the fear is that Zuckerberg is trying to appease the Trump administration by not cracking down on right-wing propaganda.”

Pelosi Video

This idea that Facebook and Zuckerberg are trying to cater to Trump and his administration is not new.

Facebook sparked controversy in May after the company refused to remove a video of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) which had been slowed down to make her appear drunk or otherwise impaired.

Several Democrats responded to the incident in a letter to Facebook in June, where they asked Facebook what they were doing to address “the spreading of political disinformation by real accounts.”

“We are concerned that there may be a potential conflict of interest between Facebook’s bottom line and immediately addressing political disinformation on your platform,” they added.

Facebook’s vice president of U.S. public policy responded in another letter three weeks.

There, he said Facebook was working to reduce misinformation by “removing fake accounts, disrupting the financial incentives behind propagating false and misleading information,” and letting users know “when they are reading or sharing information (excluding satire and opinion) that has been disputed or debunked.”

“Leading up to 2020 we know that combating misinformation is one of the most important things we can do,” he added later.

Warren Ads

Just a few weeks ago, Facebook again came under fire when it announced that anything politicians post will be exempt from the platform’s rules, and that it will not remove or label posts by politicians that violate community guidelines, even if it contains fake information or hate speech.

That policy change was met with a lot of outrage, but some people have been pretty creative with it.

Last week, 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) ran an ad on Facebook falsely claiming that Zuckerberg endorsed Trump in 2020.

“You’re probably shocked, and you might be thinking, ‘how could this possibly be true?’” the ad said. “Well, it’s not. (Sorry.) But what Zuckerberg *has* done is given Donald Trump free rein to lie on his platform — and then to pay Facebook gobs of money to push out their lies to American voters.”

Warren also took to Twitter to address the ads and go after Facebook.

“Facebook holds incredible power to affect elections and our national debate. They’ve decided to let political figures lie to you—even about Facebook itself—while their executives and their investors get even richer off the ads containing these lies,” she wrote in one tweet.

“Once again, we’re seeing Facebook throw its hands up to battling misinformation in the political discourse, because when profit comes up against protecting democracy, Facebook chooses profit,” she continued in another post.

Warren also condemned Facebook for airing a Trump campaign ad NBC and CNN refused to run because it made false statements about former Vice President Joe Biden.

In a rare occurrence, Facebook responded to Warren on Twitter, saying that they also ran pro-impeachment and anti-impeachment ads that aired nationally.

“FCC doesn’t want broadcast companies censoring candidates’ speech. We agree it’s better to let voters—not companies—decide,” it added.

See what others are saying: (Politico) (Newsweek) (TIME)

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