‘Print’ on Texas family wall is original Rockwell, sells for $1.6 million

Reuters

‘Print’ on Texas family wall is original Rockwell, sells for $1.6 million

By Marice Richter, Reuters      August 21, 2017

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DALLAS (Reuters) – A Texas family who discovered their old Norman Rockwell work of baseball umpires was an authentic painting sold the work at auction for $1.6 million, Heritage Auctions said on Monday.

The painting, an original study for the work called “Tough Call,” shows three umpires pondering whether to halt a game as raindrops begin to fall. It became one of the best-known Rockwell illustrations after being published on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post in 1949.

Rockwell gave a signed copy to John “Beans” Reardon, a baseball umpire featured prominently in the work. Sandra Sprinkle, Reardon’s granddaughter, later inherited the piece and put it above the mantle of her Dallas home for about a decade, it said.

After her death in 2015, her husband Gene Sprinkle sold the couple’s home and moved to a retirement community, where his nephew took a look at the piece and noticed brush strokes.

“We always thought it was a print, but we hung it over our fireplace because it was signed by Norman Rockwell to Beans Reardon,” Gene Sprinkle told Reuters by telephone on Monday.

Sprinkle, a 74-year-old retiree, said he agreed to let his nephew contact Dallas-based Heritage, which determined it was an original oil, painted as a study for the final version.

The buyer has asked to remain anonymous, according to Heritage officials.

“Sandra and her grandfather were very close,” Sprinkle said. “Whenever people came to our house to visit, she was always proud to show it off and tell them about her grandfather.”

(Reporting by Marice Richter; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Sandra Maler)

America is richer than ever — but you’re probably not

Yahoo Finance

America is richer than ever — but you’re probably not

Rick Newman      August 21, 2017

 https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/QWzbnkKm7WP6yqDc8X0.Bg--/Zmk9c3RyaW07aD00Mjc7dz02NDA7c209MTthcHBpZD15dGFjaHlvbg--/http://media.zenfs.com/en/homerun/feed_manager_auto_publish_494/e9a59604e9083af31c98a4241cfe1bacYachting life on display. REUTERS/Philippe Laurenson

If you measure America’s well-being by the nation’s overall wealth, these are the best days ever.

But does it feel that way? Obviously not. Disaffected working- and middle-class voters just sent a bomb-thrower at the White House, to dismantle institutions they feel are failing. Economic alienation fuels white supremacists who feel everybody’s getting ahead but them. Roughly 10 million working-age men who ought to be in the labor force are sitting at home instead. An astonishing 60% of Americans feel the nation is on the wrong track.

What, exactly, is the problem? How can the nation be so rich, yet so torn? It starts with the concentration of all that wealth, which resides with a smaller portion of the population than it has in decades. Consumers also feel more jittery about the economy than they used to, revealing long-lasting scars from the housing bust and financial meltdown nearly a decade ago. Government policies haven’t helped much, with many Americans convinced Washington has made the middle class worse off, not better off, while further enriching a ruling class that needs the money least.

First, the good news. The high-flying stock market, combined with a steady recovery in home prices during the last several years, has pushed total household net worth in the United States to about $95 trillion — nearly $30 trillion more than before the last recession began in 2007. As a percentage of disposable income, household net worth just hit a new peak, which means that wealth in the United States relative to the size of the population is now at the highest level on record. We’re rich!

View photos    Household net worth as a percentage of disposable income.

Or rather, a few of us are rich. Bank of America Merrill Lynch points out that, like income, wealth in the United States is held by a declining percentage of the population. In 1992, 54% of all financial wealth was held by the top 10% of earners; today 63% is. The latest numbers from Gallup show that just 52% of Americans own stocks — the lowest percentage on record — down from 65% in 2007.

Home equity is a larger source of wealth for many middle-class families than financial assets, but the trend here is discouraging, too. According to BAML data, the top 10% of earners now control 30% of household wealth, up from 25% in 1992. The homeownership rate, normally around 65%, peaked at 69.2% in 2004, during the housing boom, then bottomed out at 63.4% in 2015, as millions foreclosed or found themselves locked out of the housing market by tight credit or affordability problems. The homeownership rate has only recently begun to tick back up.

View photos     More evidence the rich are getting richer.

The bottom-line story is a familiar one: The rich are getting richer, with the middle and lower classes missing out on most of the gains. Widespread frustration with a backsliding middle class is one of the forces that helped Donald Trump win the presidency last year. And now, the same phenomenon is hamstringing the very economy Trump has vowed to shake from the doldrums. While job creation has been strong, wages are rising slowly, consumers remain reluctant to spend and growth is stuck around 2% per year, a solid percentage point short of the robust growth rates of the 1980s and ‘90s.

The rich don’t spend based on market performance

BAML links growing wealth inequality with relatively weak consumer spending — which would normally be stronger at such high levels of overall wealth. The reason it’s not is that affluent people enjoying most of the wealth gains are less likely to spend the extra money than lower-income folks on a budget. The “wealth effect” is supposed to make consumers more optimistic and willing to spend when their home equity rises or the value of their investing or retirement portfolio goes up. But since the wealthy generally have everything they want, they’re less likely to splurge based on the direction of the stock or housing market. And lower-income people aren’t going to spend more if they don’t feel wealthier.

A declining portion of Americans seems to be enjoying a sense of prosperity. Or, if they do feel it, they’re less likely to think it will last than they once felt. In that way, pessimism and caution beget a self-fulfilling cycle of under-performance in the economy. For Trump to defeat that, he needs to convince people they’re really better off, and likely to stay that way. For now, too many doubt it.

Escaping one of the nation’s worst environmental disaster zones

Washington Post-Health & Science

Escaping one of the nation’s worst environmental disaster zones

By Katie Mattler         August 20, 2017

https://img.washingtonpost.com/wp-apps/imrs.php?src=https://img.washingtonpost.com/rw/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2017/08/03/Production/Daily/Local/Images/JL_521.jpg?uuid=FbXd5nbeEeeerNVr1VaNuA&w=600In May, Demetra Turner holds a letter telling her to vacate her home in the West Calumet Housing Complex in East Chicago, Ind. With her is her son, Jeremiah Kinley.(Joshua Lott/for The Washington Post)

EAST CHICAGO, Ind. — The smell of burning bacon stirred Demetra Turner from her makeshift bed on the floor, a stack of quilts the only padding between her body and the ground.

Long gone was her mattress, tossed into a dumpster with her couch, her recliner, her favorite theater chairs, her kids’ beds. She had thrown them out on instructions from health officials, who said that everything in the West Calumet Housing Complex was poisoned with arsenic and lead.

Everyone must move, Mayor Anthony Copeland said last August, because the land was too dangerous to live on. But now it was May, and Turner and her children were still trying to escape.

She shuffled past barren walls, packed boxes and cases of bottled water. “Who cooked that bacon?” Turner, 44, asked her 18-year-old son, Jeremiah. He sheepishly replied, “I did.”

She smiled and shook her head. He was just trying to help, she knew. Her overnight job at a gas station left her exhausted, and everyone in the family was desperate to find a new place to live.

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In May 2016, Turner unknowingly moved her family into one of the nation’s worst environmental disaster zones. Last summer, shocked residents in the public housing complex called West Calumet were told that the soil in their yards had been contaminated for decades. In some places, the lead in the dirt measured 228 times the maximum level considered safe.

Subsequent blood tests found that 18 out of 94 children younger than 6, the age group most at risk, had elevated lead levels. Then officials tested the water and discovered that it, too, contained lead, raising concerns that East Chicago was becoming the next Flint, but worse.

Vice President Pence was governor of Indiana at the time of the announcement a year ago that the neighborhood was uninhabitable. He refused to grant East Chicago emergency status and did not visit, and his legal counsel wrote that Indiana had already provided adequate aid to East Chicago. (Pence’s office declined to comment for this article.)

Soon Turner was searching for a new place to call home in a region suddenly bombarded with far more demand for real estate than supply. An environmental crisis morphed into a housing crisis, and West Calumet became a national flash point, a cautionary tale about the Environmental Protection Agency’s underfunded cleanup program.

West Calumet and two nearby neighborhoods were declared a Superfund site in 2009, but it took five years to secure the first round of cleanup funding — $26 million — and another round of money was collected just this March.

In April, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt declared during a visit to East Chicago that places such as West Calumet would be his top priority. During a 90-second statement at a news conference, he said he had come to “restore confidence” that the EPA was “going to get it right.”

Officials should “assess and make decisions and put the community first,” he said, adding that he was “taken” by his conversation with a few residents during the spring visit.

https://img.washingtonpost.com/wp-apps/imrs.php?src=https://img.washingtonpost.com/rw/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2017/08/20/Health-Environment-Science/Images/JL_528.jpg?uuid=AAJDfHbeEeeerNVr1VaNuA&w=600An empty road runs through the nearly West Calumet complex. (Joshua Lott/for The Washington Post)

“The emotion, the passion was just telling,” Pruitt said.

Later, in an interview with The Washington Post, Pruitt criticized previous administrations for moving slowly and distributing fact sheets and warning signs. “How about cleaning it up? Pruitt said. “How about cleaning it up?”

At the end of July, Pruitt’s Superfund Task Force recommended creating a “top 10 list” of sites to prioritize. The administrator did not specify which sites but mentioned East Chicago to reporters at EPA headquarters and called residents’ despair “heartbreaking.”

Ben Carson, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees the local housing authority, paid a visit this month. He acknowledged that West Calumet residents had been “inconvenienced” but said their relocations were “done in a good way.”

Of the hundreds of families who were ordered out of West Calumet last summer, Turner’s was one of the last to leave, dodging letters from housing officials threatening to ship her across state lines to Chicago. That was the city she fled a decade ago, where moms fear not dirt but bullets. She wanted to whisk her kids to safer ground but just couldn’t find any.

For decades, lawmakers and officials have been aware of the dangerous dirt beneath West Calumet.

The housing complex was built in the 1970s in the footprint of a demolished lead factory, beside an operating lead smelter cited for pollution, and parallel to a canal that feeds a waterway eventually named the most toxic in the United States. West Calumet children have been exposed to lead in the soil, water and air capable of damaging the developing brain.

At least four times over the past three decades, local leaders have asked the federal government to clean up the area. In 2009, the EPA added West Calumet and two nearby neighborhoods to the National Priorites List list through the agency’s Superfund program.

The EPA initially sampled some yards and removed “hot spots” — sections of dirt with the highest lead levels — while they formulated a more comprehensive plan. But extensive testing from 2014 to 2016 showed that the contamination was far worse than initially realized. That data reached Copeland, the East Chicago mayor, in the spring of 2016. He criticized the EPA for operating at a glacial pace and, a few months later, ordered the complex to be demolished.

All the while, federal, state and local officials did little to protect residents such as Turner, who knew nothing of West Calumet’s history when she moved in last year. She said there was no lead disclaimer in her lease or warning signs posted on the property, an egregious result of poor communication between the EPA, HUD and the East Chicago Housing Authority, according to housing and environmental advocates.

“It merely reflects the glaring lack of oversight and enforcement of existing housing and environmental laws,” said Debbie Chizewer, a Chicago-based attorney at Northwestern University’s Environmental Advocacy Clinic. “ECHA, the City of East Chicago and EPA all knew [about the lead] and did not act here to address this grave danger to this low-income community of color.”

Turner’s old neighborhood, at the harbor near Lake Michigan, was plagued by gang activity and more expensive than West Calumet.

In May of last year, she moved into a two-story, three-bedroom duplex within sight of the neighborhood’s baseball field, basketball court, playground and pool, all perks for Jeremiah and his 11-year-old sister, Makasha. The streets at West Calumet teemed with children, and neighbors hosted backyard barbecues and tended flower gardens. On the Fourth of July, every­one gathered to watch fireworks.

“It was life,” Turner said.

But in late July 2016, just as her family had unpacked and settled, EPA officials began planting alarming signs in the yards: “DO NOT PLAY IN THE DIRT OR THE MULCH,” they said in bold blue letters.

Because West Calumet had been their home only for a short time, the risk to Turner’s kids wasn’t as high as for children born there. Jeremiah’s blood tested below the CDC’s actionable threshold of 5 micrograms per deciliter, and Makasha was never tested.

Even so, Turner felt a bubbling resentment when she looked at the water tower outside her window, painted with words that seemed to mock them all. “EAST CHICAGO,” it reads. “FOR OUR CHILDREN.”

In no time, personal injury attorneys appeared, offering limousine rides and steak dinners to potential clients. Turner brushed them off, wary of what she considered predatory tactics.

In August 2016, the EPA began deep-cleaning the walls and floors and vacuuming the furniture at homes across the complex. But the agency also encouraged residents to buy new furnishings after they moved, Turner said. She thought she would be out within weeks, so she started purging her things, dropping them into large blue dumpsters officials had placed outside.

Family photos went back into boxes. She instituted a new rule: Shoes come off at the door. And she placed an order online for a few dozen quilts that would become their sleeping “pallets.”

That August and September, HUD gave Turner and her neighbors Section 8 housing vouchers that low-income families can use to find homes in the private market. Copeland said the city provided on-site relocation assistance, contacted neighboring housing authorities and “did everything it could to assist those displaced by this unfortunate situation.”

But residents, many of whom regard the city’s housing authority and mayor with animosity, tell a different story. They say the housing authority distributed an outdated list of properties with landlords who refused to accept their vouchers, heightening their anxiety as the city pressured them to leave.

A housing discrimination complaint filed by Chicago lawyers on their behalf bought residents more time. HUD eventually settled and agreed, among other things, to extend their move-out deadline to at least April.

So Turner created profiles on ­every real estate website she could find — Zillow, HotPads, Trulio, Rent.com, Apartments.com, Section 8, Craigslist.

She struck out in East Chicago and transferred her housing voucher to the neighboring town of Whiting, and then Hammond, and then back to East Chicago, a laborious process that requires meetings and paperwork with each new housing authority.

Other neighbors moved to Chicago, but Turner had grown up and raised her children there — Jeremiah, Makasha and their four older brothers — and considered it too dangerous. “I moved out of Chicago to save them,” she said.

By May, Turner’s duplex was the only place on her street still showing signs of life — the only door with a welcome sign, only driveway with a car, only full trash cans at the curb. This exposed her family to yet another danger: burglars.

So Jeremiah, who spends most nights home alone with Makasha, started a new routine.

The teen would jam a chair under each door knob and stack others in front of the picture window. If someone tried to get inside overnight, Jeremiah reasoned, the toppling furniture would wake him so he could call police. It made him feel safer, he said.

Then the city cut power to the streetlights.

Twice, knocks on the door came late at night. Once, while Jeremiah was taking the garbage cans to the curb before bed, people in a car driving by shot at him with a BB gun. Soon after, Turner came home from work to a heart-wrenching sight: Pillows and blankets were on the floor under the kitchen table, just feet from the front door, and Jeremiah was on guard but asleep.

It was a morning in mid-May when Turner came home and found the eviction notice.

She and her kids had less than a week to find a new place to live with her Section 8 voucher or relocate to city-provided temporary housing across town. If they refused, the letter said, they would be evicted and risk losing their voucher.

So in June, Turner finally drove her family away from the dangers of West Calumet forever, past her neighbors’ abandoned homes and the mocking water tower, toward a bug-infested unit that made her cry.

With a furniture stipend, she bought a new living room set and three beds, the family’s first real mattresses in a year. Then Turner plotted their final escape from East Chicago.

At the end of July, a week before her voucher was set to expire, she and the kids loaded up the moving truck again. They said goodbye to the only school Makasha had ever known and left behind Demetra’s broken down minivan, which she could no longer afford to fix.

An hour away in Joliet, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, they had found a house with safe water and clean dirt. But Demetra couldn’t help but fret over all that she had lost: a steady job, trusted doctors, her West Calumet support system. “I’m like a fish out of water,” Turner said.

She planned to tell Carson about her family’s ordeal when he visited East Chicago this month. Community leaders asked HUD to let her into the listening session. Carson, they thought, needed to hear her story.

It wasn’t until the morning of the visit, when Turner was already halfway to West Calumet, that she learned HUD’s response: No.

Brady Dennis contributed to this report.

Katie Mettler is a reporter for The Washington Post’s Morning Mix team. She previously worked for the Tampa Bay Times.

Fracking Giant Sues PA Resident For $5 Million For Speaking To Media About Contamination

MintPress

Fracking Giant Sues PA Resident For $5 Million For Speaking To Media About Contamination

By MintPress News Desk         August 17, 2017

http://www.mintpressnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/AP_784994094918.jpgRay Kemble of Dimock, Pa., displays a jug of what he identifies as his contaminated well water outside a regional office of the EPA, Aug. 12, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP/Matt Rourke)

“Take a skunk and every household chemical, put it in a blender, puree it for five minutes and take a whiff. It burns the back of your throat, makes you gag, makes you want to puke. It’s all still bad. That’s why [the inspectors are] back up here.” — Dimock, Pa. resident Ray Kemble.

Ever since the dangerous consequences  of natural gas extraction via hydraulic fracturing – popularly known as “fracking” — entered the national consciousness, the small town of Dimock, Pennsylvania has arguably been “ground zero” for water contamination caused by the controversial practice.

Now Cabot Oil & Gas, the massive energy company responsible for numerous fracking wells near Dimock, is suing one of the town’s residents for $5 million, claiming that his efforts to “attract media attention” to the pollution of his water well have “harmed” the company. According to the lawsuit, Dimock resident Ray Kemble’s actions breached an earlier 2012 settlement that was part of an ongoing federal class action lawsuit over the town’s water quality. Kemble has stated that Cabot’s fracking turned his groundwater “black, like mud, [with] a strong chemical odor.”

Earlier this year, Kemble filed a follow-up lawsuit against Cabot, which was based on new findings that could help him prove the link between Cabot’s fracking operation and the contamination of his well. Cabot, at the time, argued that the case was built on “inflammatory allegations” intended to “poison the jury pool” and “extort payment” from the company.

Kemble eventually dropped his lawsuit, acting in response to new information that he thought might negatively affect the case. Kemble’s lawyers have declined to comment on the nature of that information. Cabot alleged that this lawsuit was a breach of the 2012 settlement contract Kemble had signed, prompting them to counter-sue Kemble.

Cabot’s decision to sue Ray Kemble may be motivated by more than their distaste for his now-dismissed lawsuit. In context, it appears meant to intimidate and “send a message” to Kemble and any other resident thinking of voicing similar concerns and objections. Days before Cabot’s lawsuit against Kemble was filed, the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR) arrived in Dimock to examine the groundwater of several homes close to Cabot fracking wells, including Kemble’s.

Kemble described the state of his groundwater to The Associated Press: “Take a skunk and every household chemical, put it in a blender, puree it for five minutes and take a whiff. It burns the back of your throat, makes you gag, makes you want to puke. It’s all still bad. That’s why they’re back up here.”

The ATSDR told the AP that it is testing Dimock’s water for bacteria, gases, and chemicals in order to “determine if there are drinking water quality issues that may continue to pose a health threat.” Their previous study in 2012 found high levels of chemicals such as methane, cadmium, lead, and arsenic. They also found that several residences were “at risk of explosion or fire” due to high methane levels. In the past, several drinking water wells in Dimock have exploded due to the high amount of methane now present in the town’s water.

Dimock residents have been expressing concern over the quality of their water for nearly a decade. In 2009, Pennsylvania state officials determined that Cabot Oil & Gas was responsible for the contamination, though the EPA complicated this decision by announcing in 2012 that Dimock’s water was “safe” to drink. The EPA arrived at this conclusion despite the fact that its investigators – along with the ATSDR —had found “significant damage to the water quality” due to the presence of nearby fracking wells.

 

How the Republican party quietly does the bidding of white supremacists

The Guardian-Politics

How the Republican party quietly does the bidding of white supremacists | Russ Feingold

Russ Feingold, The Guardian      August 19, 2017

Let us finally rip off the veneer that Trump’s affinity for white supremacy is distinct from the Republican agenda. It isn’t.

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‘If Republican lawmakers want to distinguish themselves from Trump’s comments, they need to do more than type out 144 characters on their phone.’ Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

It takes approximately 30 seconds to send a tweet. A half hour to draft and release a statement. And the shelf life of both is only marginally longer. We should not commend Republican party elected officials who claim outrage on social media at Trump’s remarks, often without daring to mention his name. The phony claimed outrage becomes dangerous if it convinces anyone that there is a distinction between Trump’s abhorrent comments and the Republican Party agenda.

The lesson from Charlottesville is not how dangerous the neo-Nazis are. It is the unmasking of the Republican party leadership. In the wake of last weekend’s horror and tragedy, let us finally, finally rip off the veneer that Trump’s affinity for white supremacy is distinct from the Republican agenda of voter suppression, renewed mass incarceration and the expulsion of immigrants.

There is a direct link between Trump’s comments this week and those policies, so where is the outrage about the latter? Where are the Republican leaders denouncing voter suppression as racist, un-American and dangerous? Where are the Republican leaders who are willing to call out the wink (and the direct endorsement) from President Trump to the white supremacists and acknowledge their own party’s record and stance on issues important to people of color as the real problem for our country?

Republicans on the voter suppression commission are enabling Trump’s agenda and that of the white Nazi militia

Words mean nothing if the Republican agenda doesn’t change. Governors and state legislatures were so quick to embrace people of color in order to avoid the impression, they too share Trump’s supreme affinity for the white race. But if they don’t stand up for them they are not indirectly, but directly enabling the agenda of those same racists that Republican members were so quick to condemn via Twitter.

Gerrymandering, strict voter ID laws, felon disenfranchisement are all aimed at one outcome: a voting class that is predominantly white, and in turn majority Republican.

The white supremacist chant of, “you will not replace us,” could easily and accurately be the slogan for these Republican politicians. Their policies will achieve the same racial outcome as Jim Crow – the disenfranchisement and marginalization of people of color.

It is a sad day when more CEOs take action by leaving and shutting down Trump’s Strategy and Policy Forum, and Manufacturing Council, than elected officials take action leaving Trump’s “election integrity” commission.

Businessman are acting more responsive to their customers than politicians are to their voters. At the end of the day, which presidential council is more dangerous? Which most embodies the exact ideology that Trump spewed on Monday? A group of businessmen coming together to talk jobs or a group of elected officials coming together to disenfranchise voters of color?

Anyone still sitting on the voter suppression commission is enabling Trump’s agenda and that of the white Nazi militia that stormed Charlottesville to celebrate a time when the law enforced white supremacy.

If Republican lawmakers want to distinguish themselves from Trump’s comments, they need to do more than type out 144 characters on their phone. They need to take a hard look at their party’s agenda.

A good start would be with voting rights. Let’s see lawmakers like John Kasich in Ohio immediately stop the state’s intended purging of voting records. Let’s see Wisconsin lawmakers throw out their gerrymandered district map and form a non-partisan redistricting commission.

Let’s see strict voter ID laws criticized with the same vitriol that Republicans used in responding to the events in Charlottesville. Let’s see Republicans call out their own agenda, and openly recognize the connection between the agenda of the racist alt-right and that of the Republican party.

Anything short of radical change to the Republican party’s war on voters of color is merely feigned outrage. Even if the white supremacists are condemned, even if the entire Republican party rises up in self-professed outrage at white supremacists, if voter suppression and other such racist policies survive, the white supremacists are winning. And America is losing.

Russ Feingold is a former Senator for Wisconsin

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Break The Cycle of Over-consumption. Greenpeace

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Break the cycle of overconsumption: http://bit.ly/2uLoS2Qvia Greenpeace International

Posted by EcoWatch on Thursday, August 17, 2017

Mr. Trump Wants to Keep Our “Beautiful Confederate Statues and Monuments” ‘We Must Tear Them Down’

John Hanno, tarbabys.com   August 17, 2017

Mr. Trump Wants to Keep Our “Beautiful Confederate Statues and Monuments”

    ‘We Must Tear Them Down’

All across America, cities and towns, big and small, are debating whether the toxic reminders of our Civil War and a fatally divided country should  finally be torn down. 

I think a better idea, in this age of worsening climate change, would be to melt down and recycle these toxic metal sculptures and then turn them into a grand Washington monument, to those who fought and died to heal the country during reconstruction, to those who’ve spent their lives bringing America’s races together instead of dividing us and to our black brothers and sisters who paid some of the highest costs for that war and its ongoing consequences.

Its a sad thing indeed, as we’ve witnessed since our incursion into Iraq, when radical Islamic terrorists tear down or destroy the centuries old artifacts or monuments to any semblance of a religion or culture that doesn’t conform to their narrow extreme ideology.

This is not the same. Most of these Civil War monuments were constructed many decades after the civil war ended, most during the height of Jim Crow. In many cases, they were used to glorify and rewrite the most painful and divisive episodes in our history.

My idea, not new of course, would be to turn our “Swords into Plowshares.” Something resourceful folks have been doing for centuries.

We could model it after the “Swords to Plowshares Memorial Bell Tower” project; only on a much grander scale.

“The Swords to Plowshares Memorial Bell Tower, initiated by the Eisenhower Chapter of Veterans For Peace, is a traveling monument dedicated to stopping the cycle of war and violence, healing the wounds of war that is caused on both sides of conflict, and providing a forum for all victims to start the healing process caused by wars.

Wherever the tower appears, veterans and victims of war of different national origins will ring the bell and share stories of how their families have been effected by war. It is hoped that an honest dialogue about the costs of war may help victims heal and veterans recover from the “moral injury” that has been linked to an epidemic of veteran suicides.

Roger Ehrlich and Joe McTaggert built the bell tower from reclaimed steel, aluminum cans and a bell donated from the Church of Reconciliation in Chapel Hill who unburied it during renovations. The tower is made of 4 stackable pieces, each 6 feet high, so when assembled the tower stands 24 feet high. The aluminum bricks are each attached independently to allow movement from the wind, and reflect the sun and lights from the surface. The bell is suspended within the tower and can be rung by pulling on an attached rope.”

The plaque on the tower reads:

https://sites.google.com/site/stpbelltower/_/rsrc/1405809341940/home/10403977_10202520701247062_3230966444822165065_o.jpg?height=320&width=240

I think we should have a contest to create a plaque for a new Washington monument, dedicated to those who work tirelessly to bring all races and religions together.

My own version would be:

     ‘Turn Relics of a Sad War Into a Symbol of Hope and Change’

To Mark the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation;

Rational Folks of All Races and Religions Dedicate this Monument;

Made from Remnants Donated from Repentant Confederate States;

To Victims, Soldiers and Families who Suffered this Unresolved Conflict;

Without Regard to Race, Religion, Family History or Political Persuasion;

To Those Who Find no Comfort in Perpetrating Our National Disgrace;

To Those Who Struggle to Heal or Bridge Our Racial or Political Divides;

We Erect a Monument to America’s Ability to Forgive and Forget;

To Call For an End to All Racial Animosity and Persecution;

In Order to Spare All Future Generations the Same Fate!

 

Donald Trump said: “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,”

But if he’s so concerned about our historical legacy fading away, then for every civil war relic, who folks like Mr. Trump insist on preserving, there should be a companion monument displaying the other side of the issue of slavery. Maybe a statue next to Robert E. Lee, (who did more than almost anyone to preserve slavery, even after the war) depicting one of our black brothers hanging from a tree limb at the end of a rope. And along side other Confederate monuments, maybe a group of peaceful protesters being attacked by police armed with clubs, attack dogs and fire hoses. Or maybe a depiction of Emmett Till lying in his coffin with thousands of mourners filing by his mutilated body.

Of course we probably wouldn’t do that. There’s no glory in such a display. No regal soldier dressed in his uniform and perched on a beautiful horse. Just pain and suffering.

Maybe if we tear down all these painful reminders, we can finally turn the corner on the tenuous race relations that keep bubbling up to the surface.  John Hanno www.tarbabys.com

Trump: Keep our ‘beautiful’ Confederate monuments

Yahoo News

Trump: Keep our ‘beautiful’ Confederate monuments

Julia Munslow      August 17, 2017 

https://www.yahoo.com/sy/ny/api/res/1.2/GO10azvFY5RCQqFrGkjfNg--/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjtzbT0xO3c9ODAw/http://media.zenfs.com/en/homerun/feed_manager_auto_publish_494/de5e92fd67d325d33f9c1889ce816e29Donald Trump, Confederate monuments. (Yahoo News photo-illustration; photos: AP, Denise Sanders/The Baltimore Sun via AP, Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

President Trump on Thursday bemoaned the removal of “beautiful” Confederate monuments across the U.S. after last weekend’s violent clashes in Charlottesville, Va., where white supremacists rallied against the removal of Robert E. Lee statue.

“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” Trump wrote on Twitter Thursday morning. “You can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!”

Trump continued: “Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”

Last weekend’s violent Charlottesville protests rekindled the debate over Confederate monuments, which critics say symbolize the slavery issue that prompted the Southern secession. Baltimore, Lexington, Ky., and other municipalities have already started removing memorials.

Trump has repeatedly equated Lee, a Confederate general, with the Founding Fathers.

“So this week it’s Robert E. Lee,” the president said Tuesday in Trump Tower. “I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

But when asked if he thought Confederate statues should be removed, Trump said, “That’s up to a local town, community or the federal government, depending on where it is located.”

Trump, reeling from widespread criticism over such comments, has apparently decided such monuments should stay.

Group wants to end war, not glorify it, with traveling memorial in Raleigh

The News & Observer-Wake County

Group wants to end war, not glorify it, with traveling memorial in Raleigh

http://www.newsobserver.com/latest-news/43zuoj/picture7558070/alternates/FREE_1140/BHdLo.So.156.jpegDoug Ryder, left, Roger Ehrlick, right, and Jim Senter, on ground, put together the final pieces of a hand-made memorial bell tower Friday on the south side of the State Capitol in Raleigh. jhknight@newsobserver.com

By Martha Quillin – November 7, 2014

A stiff wind from Friday’s cold front blew across the State Capitol grounds and struck the tower that Roger Ehrlich and his partners were trying to raise, making its hundreds of aluminum plates rattle like sabers.

But instead of weapons of war, the plates are meant to be symbols against it, forming a sort of anti-war memorial Ehrlich hopes will encourage people this Veterans Day to consider the cost of world conflict rather than to glorify it.

“A lot of war monuments are built with the idea that war is fought to guarantee freedom,” said Ehrlich, a sociologist-turned-artist who lives in Cary. “That’s a big lie, and we wanted to do something different.”

Ehrlich conceived the tower for the local chapter of Veterans For Peace, a global nonprofit based in St. Louis that says its main mission is to end war, in part by educating the public on what the group says are war’s true causes and effects. It also hopes to help veterans heal from their combat experiences, Ehrlich says, by supporting conciliatory efforts such as the clearing of mines from former battlefields, so the land can be used for farming.

The group first erected the 24-foot structure on Memorial Day and has displayed it several times since.

It was built in three pieces that can travel on the back of a trailer – the smaller pieces nestled inside the larger – and be put back together on site. Between its metal frame are stretched metal stakes once used to support young apple trees in Ehrlich’s family’s orchards near Asheville. Each metal rod becomes a rack on which hang the metal plates, hammered from empty aluminum drink cans.

The group calls the triangular tower “Swords to Plowshares,” a biblical reference to Isaiah’s prophesy that one day, nations will not lift swords against one another.

The tower has evolved since it was introduced. Veterans – and those who remember them – inscribe names and messages on the plates, the way thousands of people have left notes at the base of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.

John Hueur, president of the local chapter, helped raise the tower Friday afternoon so it would be in place on the south side of the State Capitol building in time for today’s Veterans Day Parade, which will pass close by.

Members of Veterans For Peace will participate in the parade, which will wind along several blocks of downtown Raleigh, a moving salute to those who have served.

Ehrlich and Hueur, who were not members of the armed forces but who had relatives who fought in both world wars, say their intent with the memorials is not to diminish veterans’ sacrifices but to see a world in which such sacrifice is no longer needed.

http://www.newsobserver.com/latest-news/o3geyy/picture7558073/alternates/FREE_768/1r6nhV.So.156.jpeg

Doug Ryder, left, John Heuer, center, and Roger Ehrlich hold a rope to keep control of a hand-made memorial bell tower while it was lifted using a hand winch Friday on the south side of the State Capitol in Raleigh.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/counties/wake-county/article10122032.html#storylink=cpy

5 major differences between federal and private student loans

Yahoo Finance

5 major differences between federal and private student loans

https://www.yahoo.com/finance/news/5-major-differences-federal-private-student-loans-153948663.html

Alyssa Pry     August 16, 2017    

If you’ve been to college or have recently graduated, chances are you have a student loan. About 43.3 million people have student loans, and 90% of borrowers take out a Federal student loan, according to the US Department of Education. But federal loans don’t always cover all of your college costs, and more borrowers are turning to private loans; according to a new study by LendEDU, 1.4 million people currently have a private loan to pay for college costs.

Experts recommend using Federal loans, financial aid, and scholarships before taking out a private student loan. Understanding the main differences between your loan options will help you determine the best way to fund your education.

Difference 1: How they’re funded

Federal loans are funded by the US Department of Education or private institutions that the government guarantee to pay back in case of default. Federal loans come with more protections, such as flexible payment schedules, lower interest rates and income-based pay-back programs.

Private loans are funded by banks and other lenders, such as credit unions, which means the lenders set the terms and interest rates. Interest rates are typically higher, and there is less flexibility for the borrower.

Difference #2: Interest Rates

The interest rate for federal loans is set by the Federal Reserve. They have fixed interest rates, which means the rate won’t change for the entirety of your loan. In 2017, the Federal Reserve raised the interest rate on undergraduate loans to 4.45%, and 6-7% for graduate student loans.

Private loans can have fixed or variable rates. Variable interest rates can fluctuate depending on the economy, potentially adding large amounts of interest to your loan. According to LendEDU, the average fixed-rate student loan is 9.66%, while the average variable rate is 7.81%, but rates can vary depending on your lender and loan terms.

Difference #3: Getting the loan

You will need to fill out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to apply for a federal student loan, and you’ll also find out if you qualify for federal grants or other student aid. Your credit will not affect your ability to get a government loan.

There are three different types of federal student loans. A Direct Subsidized loan is given to students with financial need, and the loan interest will be paid by the federal government if you go to school part time, during the six months after you graduate or if you defer your loan payments. You can also receive a Direct Unsubsidized loan, which you are eligible for regardless of financial need, and you are responsible for all interest payments. Finally, you can receive a Direct PLUS loan, for graduate or professional school students.

Your ability to receive a private loan depends on your credit history, which will affect your loan terms and interest rates. You may also need a cosigner, such as a parent, who guarantees he or she will be responsible for your loan if you can’t pay it back. You don’t need to fill out the FAFSA in order to apply for a private loan.

Difference #4: Repaying the loan

You have a grace period of six months after you graduate before you have to start repaying your federal student loan. Most federal loan borrowers are put on a 10-year repayment plan, but you have up to 25 years to repay your federal loans in full.

Private loans may need to be repaid immediately—while you’re still enrolled in college—but you may have the option to defer payment until you graduate. There is less flexibility when it comes to your repayment schedule than with a federal loan, and the length you have to repay it varies depending on your lender.

Difference #5: Lowering your payments

If you’re having difficulty repaying your loan, Federal loans offer more options than private loans to lower your payments. You can defer your loan payments for up to three years, and your loans may be forgiven if you work in public service.

Private loans typically don’t offer loan forgiveness. However, if you’re having difficulty making your payments, you may be able to refinance the private loan. Refinancing means you consolidate your loan(s) into a new loan and repay the new loan at a lower interest rate. But, keep in mind, not all borrowers are eligible for refinancing.

It’s important to be a responsible borrower and know how much you’ll owe. And remember, the longer you take to repay your loans, the more interest will accrue.

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