Monday, December 29, 2014

Archive: November, 2009

POSTED: Tuesday, December 1, 2009, 2:10 AM
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey.

It’s been almost five years since the Philadelphia Police Department’s own integrity officer called for establishing a foot-pursuit policy when suspects flee. Despite deaths, shootings, and a lawsuit, there are still no guidelines.

The inaction may result in a steep price paid in lives — to both civilians and police officers — and legal judgments against the city when foot chases go wrong.
 

Indeed, a federal lawsuit on behalf of a man shot and killed following a foot chase in 2006 contends that a pursuit policy could have helped avoid the incident.
 

Inquirer editorial board @ 2:10 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, December 1, 2009, 1:00 AM

 

Health reform isn’t the only important measure awaiting Senate action. That chamber also has before it legislation that would finally knock private lenders out of the lucrative college loan business.
 
The sooner that happens, the better. Eliminating the current middleman system would let the federal government make more loans directly. Instead of subsidies going to banks, more aid would go to needy students.
 
The transition would be relatively easy, since the federal government already puts up most of the money that private lenders use to make student loans; pays the lenders subsidies; and then guarantees the loans.
 
For their part, lenders reap billions in loan fees with no risk. Some have stooped to unscrupulous practices to lure students to borrow from them. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo uncovered instances of loan companies bribing financial-aid officers who advised students about where to borrow for school.
 
The bill that was passed by the House in September would provide about $80 billion over 10 years for President Obama’s education initiatives. About $40 billion would go to the federal Pell grants program, which provides scholarships for low- and moderate-income students.
 
The maximum Pell grant in the late 1970s covered more than two-thirds of tuition and fees for a public four-year university, but covered only about a third of that amount in the last school year. Under the House bill, a Pell grant would rise from $5,350 per student to $5,550 next year and eventually to $6,900 in 2019. The bill would index the grants to inflation starting in 2011.
 
That increase is needed. Two-thirds of college students borrow to pay for college. Many accumulate massive debt that takes them years and years to pay off.
 
The banking industry — hoping to keep its cash cow — is expected to mount an intense lobbying campaign to keep the measure from passing in the Senate. For-profit student-loan companies are claiming thousands of jobs will be lost if the government takes over.
 
The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act would fulfill a campaign promise by Obama to overhaul the costly student-loan system. Besides increasing Pell grants, the money saved from getting rid of middleman lenders would provide new funding for community colleges and early-childhood learning programs.
 
Community colleges would get as much as $12 billion to help prepare a more skilled workforce. At a time when many two-year colleges have seen their funding slashed, the additional funding would provide for job training and capital projects on campuses.
 
Nationally, community colleges enroll more than six million students. Many, including those in the Philadelphia region, have seen tremendous enrollment growth during the recession and also need additional funding.
 
Obama’s education plan would also pour about $8 billion into early childhood programs, which in recent years have taken a backseat on the public-education agenda. America’s historically black colleges and universities would also get $2.5 billion.
 
Add it all up, and the sum says it’s time to end a college-loan system that’s more about putting coins into bankers’ pockets than making higher learning accessible.
Inquirer Editorial Board @ 1:00 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, November 30, 2009, 1:55 AM

The federal government reached a distressing milestone this month - $12 trillion in debt. That's about $39,000 for every man, woman and child in the United States.

In 2001, the national debt stood at about $5.5 trillion. In the past eight years, Washington piled up more debt than the nation had accumulated in its entire history.

Foreign countries hold $3.5 trillion of our country's debt, led by China at around $800 billion and Japan at $730 billion. Unless the United States starts living within its means, foreign lenders could decide to end our free-spending ways.

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POSTED: Monday, November 30, 2009, 1:30 AM
Philadelphia has a ghost tour, pictured here. Maybe Harrisburg pols should start one, given how many people have been put in ghost jobs.

The next time a state lawmaker claims to be safeguarding your tax dollars, remember Sue Cornell and Sam Stokes.

Cornell and Stokes are allegedly the latest in a long line of "ghost" employees paid with public money for doing nothing. Their stories are more evidence that some top elected leaders in Harrisburg consider taxpayers chumps.

Cornell offered some of the most infuriating testimony in the latest round of criminal indictments against legislators and top aides in the state capitol. She was a Republican state representative from Montgomery County who lost her bid for reelection in 2006. After her loss, Cornell asked then-Speaker John M. Perzel (R., Phila.) if he could find her another job. The grand jury report that led to the indictment of Perzel and others said his top aide put Cornell on the state payroll in the office of Rep. George Kenney (R., Phila.).

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POSTED: Saturday, November 28, 2009, 3:45 AM
One of the Fort Hood victims mourned. (M. SPENCER GREEN / Associated Press)

In the wake of a number of shocking mass shootings, Americans should call on their elected leaders to tackle the problem of easy access to guns by people who have no business being armed.

Ever since the Virginia Tech killings in mid-2007 by a mentally ill college student, the need has been obvious to tighten laws to prevent such troubled individuals from obtaining gun licenses. But doing so bucks against the powerful gun lobby.

Now a disturbing new study from a Washington-based gun control group, the Violence Policy Center, should sharpen that debate - and maybe even drown out the expected protests from the National Rifle Association.

Inquirer Editorial Board @ 3:45 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Saturday, November 28, 2009, 1:50 AM

Eight years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, much of the public is understandably weary of war. And given the costly intelligence failures in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, they are also wary when it comes to warnings of new and continuing threats, especially in regard to weapons of mass destruction.

With the passage of time, one challenge is how best to keep the public engaged and aware of looming threats. So how do you get people to pay attention and demand action of their government?

In the mass media generation raised on MTV and ESPN highlights, one way is to release a two-minute DVD that asks: "Why wasn't H1N1 vaccine available before school started?"

Inquirer Editorial Board @ 1:50 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, November 27, 2009, 11:00 AM
Mayor Nutter signs Sharif Amir's T-shirt after painting a Bronx school hallway yesterday. He was making good on a bet with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg after the Phillies' Series lost to the Yankees. (MARY ALTAFFER / Associated Press)

Mayor Nutter swept into office buoyed by voters' high hopes and great expectations.

But almost two years into his term, the mayor has lost some of his mojo. His administration doesn't seem to be firing on all cylinders.

The issues plaguing the mayor are more squishy than concrete, and may come with the territory of pushing for change within an entrenched and often dysfunctional City Hall.

Inquirer Editorial Board @ 11:00 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, November 27, 2009, 3:50 AM

Kudos to Rep. Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.) for his strong defense of fellow Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D., R.I.) who was asked by a Catholic bishop not to receive Holy Communion because of his support for abortion rights.

The church is more than free to voice its positions on a variety of issues. But it should not pressure elected officials to chose between full membership in the church and carrying out their sworn elected duties.

Whatever happened to the separation of church and state?

Inquirer Editorial Board @ 3:50 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
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