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House approves $15 billion bill to bail out mortgage foreclosure victims:

Democrats pushed a $15 billion housing bill through a House committee Wednesday over the objections of Republicans, who called it a government bailout.

The measure would send federal loans and grants to cities and counties hit hardest by the housing crisis so they could buy and fix up foreclosed properties. It passed the Financial Services Committee 38-26, mostly along party lines.

Democrats said it would prevent blight in distressed neighborhoods, but the Bush administration and Republicans view it as a government giveaway for lenders and speculators that could lead to even more foreclosures.

Barack Obama called for equal pay for women:

John McCain, however, thinks that it is OK for women to receive unequal pay for equal work.

US News & World Report reports that as demand skyrockets, mass transit systems have trouble paying the bills:

With gas at $4 per gallon and highway congestion soaring, ridership on the nation's subways and buses has jumped dramatically. Between 1995 and 2006, use of public transportation increased by 30 percent, a rate far outstripping both population growth and increased highway usage. Last year, that meant Americans took some 10.3 billion trips on mass transit. And therein lies the problem. "There's a transportation finance crisis writ large across the country," says Robert Puentes, a fellow at the Brookings Institution's metropolitan policy program.

Because mass transit systems are so expensive to operate, they rely heavily on subsidies from federal, state, and local coffers. But the flow of money has not kept pace with the ridership growth. And when demand is coupled with capital costs or deferred maintenance and bonds coming due, many transit systems now find themselves in a financial bind that promises to only get worse.

In the red. The transit agency in Boston, for instance, is now some $5 billion in the red. The New York Transit Authority will face an estimated $700 million deficit this year, which is projected to jump to a $1.1 billion shortfall in 2009 and a $2.07 billion gap by 2011. "The state wasn't kicking in money for capital needs, so we were taking out bonds," says William Henderson, executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the Metropolitan Transit Authority. "Now, not only are you having to pay for the 40 percent of cost of operations that you're not covering through the fare box, you're also paying for more and more debt service."

What we could see is that as demand skyrockets, fares could skyrocket along with gas prices as well. And this would especially affect places like North Carolina hard. For instance, the Charlotte area is one of the fastest-growing areas of the state, with local leaders struggling to keep up with the explosive growth. Barack Obama would get us out of Iraq, meaning that billions of dollars would be freed up to help cash-strapped mass transit authorities. John McCain, on the other hand, would keep us in Iraq for the next 100 years and tie up even more resources in Iran and $400 billion worth of tax cuts for the rich per year, meaning that transit authorities would face rising deficits and have to pass on their costs to the customers.

In New Albany, Indiana, Obama calls for unity:

"There's too much at stake for us to be divided, " he said to cheers. "We know what the other party is offering and they're basically offering more of the same."

Prefacing his remarks as he always does with praise for McCain's service to the nation -- he was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam conflict -- Obama said McCain has suggested teh war in Iraq is success and that that economy has made "great progress" under President Bush -- words something that brought laughter from this crowd.

"That's four more years that we can't afford," Obama said of a McCain presidency.

McCain, he said, had apparently not paid attention to the 232,000 people who have lost jobs under this administration, the millions who have lost their homes, the millions who can't afford college.

More coverage of Obama's New Albany visit:

As the nation's political attention turned to Indiana -- one of the last primaries for Democrats trying to determine their presidential nominee -- Obama said he respects his opponent, Sen. Hillary Clinton and that they share "common ideas."

But he told the estimated 2,500 people in the IUS gym that they "do have a real choice."

"I believe the only way we're going to bring about the changes that you need to see in your lives and the lives of your community is if we don't just offer different policies, but we offer a different kind of politics in Washington," he said.

Obama spoke and answered questions from the audience for nearly an hour as supporters chanted, waved and cheered, often so loudly they drowned him out.

Here is the video of Obama's PA primary night speech:

Underfunded schools in Guam putting children at risk with unsafe school buses:

Responsible for transporting the island's children to and from school each day, the Department of Public Works has been doing the task on a daily basis - despite school buses nearly falling apart and being unregistered for years. DPW is once again asking the Guam Police to pardon their lack of progress in complying with the same rules as every other motorist...but the situation has parents concerned about their children's safety.

The entire fleet of DPW's schools buses are now officially expired, not having been registered for at least the last five years. Parents like James George are outraged that the agency is putting thousands of kids, including his own, in danger everyday. George told KUAM News, "It is really scary to takes those kids into a risk life, they're (DPW) are risking their (students) lives so it's kind of a sad situation. It is a risk, too. Actually, all the vehicles need to be registered and make sure they are in safety standard [sic]."

While bus drivers are responsible for daily inspections, it's been an uphill battle as many bus drivers KUAM News spoke with today (only on the condition of anonymity), said they've tried to get the buses registered and properly maintained for the last two years, but their requests have all been denied. One such public sector staffer told us his engine has but a single mount keeping it attached to the bus. Still others said they've complained about leaking fluids from the vehicles, not to mention the balding tires, including several we found at the Dededo Bus Station.

This is what happens at the local level when schools are underfunded. Needs go unmet, the Bush administration winds up playing off people, families, and communities against each other, and our children are the one who suffer. And for John McCain and the right-wingers, that "proves" that the public school system fails our children and that we should switch to a voucher system that is little more than legalized religious indoctrination of our children in violation of the 1st Amendment clause of separation of church and state. A vote for Barack Obama is a vote to free up billions of dollars from Iraq so that our schools can once again be fully funded and our children are no longer put at risk.

And the Guam school system is one that is in chaos and turmoil, thanks to underfunding. Bathrooms are unsanitary because there is no money to clean and maintain them properly, schools are being closed just so that they can be sanitized, and it disrupts the lives of people there; people must then miss time from work or pay extra money to provide care for their children. The full effects of No Child Left Behind and the consequent underfunding of our schools is starting to hit home.

Researchers have developed a treatment regimen for an aggressive form of breast cancer. This aggressive form, known as HER2, is one of the more difficult forms of cancer to treat; for instance, there is currently no known cure. But with adequate  finances, people can gain access to critical treatments that will make it a chronic disease that is still manageable. Treatment includes chemotherapy, anti-hormonal therapy, and drugs that can go through the body and search and destroy cancer cells. The latter is important to prevent the cancer from spreading anymore. A vote for Barack Obama means billions of dollars freed up from Iraq that can be used instead to provide universal access to people with HER2 breast cancer. A vote for John McCain means that people will not get access to the treatments that they need as billions of taxpayer dollars will be tied up in Iraq. And on top of that, John McCain's healthcare plan would actually mean fewer people would have access to these kinds of treatments because it would involve ending employer-based insurance for many Americans.

In Michigan City, IN, de facto segregation in prisons is a way of life:

In the Michigan City prison, the black inmates sit on one side of the cafeteria, and the white inmates sit on the other side.

Crossing over can result in a brawl, which is exactly what Anderson resident Jeffery Cottrell, who is black, was caught in the middle of while serving time about 10 years ago.

A black inmate walked to where the white inmates were eating, and the white inmates started a fight with the man. This escalated into a massive riot that prison guards rushed to suppress.

"I hid under the table when the rubber bullets started flying," said Cottrell, who is now program director of the Urban League in Madison County.

The problem is that our prison system does not treat the causes of crime and violence; it only treats the symptoms. In fact, our prison system only reinforces the kinds of behaviors that led to people going to jail in the first place. A vote for Barack Obama would be a vote to address these causes, including the anger and the pain caused by 300 years of racism. On the other hand, John McCain actively opposed the creation of Martin Luther King Day and refuses to address the problem of racism in our country.

Indianapolis Business Journal columnist Morton Marcus says that Obama's "bitter" remarks are perfectly on-target:

This is not a political endorsement. It is, however, a cry of outrage that a candidate for president is attacked for speaking the truth.

Barack Obama has been quoted as saying, "You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And it’s not surprising then [that local residents] get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

This is a brilliant description of what is certainly true of places in the Midwest where I have traveled in the past quartercentury. Obama did not sugar-coat the story. He told it as it is, as most local politicians would not dare.

Then along comes Sen. Hillary Clinton, who ignores the reality of these remarks and goes on to accuse Obama of attacking people of faith. Worse, the media labels Obama’s words a "bungle." Nonsense. The senator from Illinois knows exactly what is happening.

Manufacturing jobs that gave citizens good wages also provided identities to hundreds of towns. "This is the place where they make ABC or FGH." I was proud of a Ford meter box from Wabash in a sidewalk of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Folks from Bedford take pride in their limestone contributions to buildings and monuments nationwide. We don’t forget that CDs come from Terre Haute. We know that Hoosier steel and its many transformations are vital to cars, trucks, homes and offices. Shelbyville residents remind you that Old Hickory furniture originates in their town. Who can separate Columbus and Cummins? New Castle sees itself as the abandoned child of Chrysler, while Kokomo prays it does not suffer the same fate.

Much of our struggle as a state is our mental distress. Just as it was finally sinking in that Indiana was not a farm state, we started to think our pre-eminence in manufacturing was ending. There are still Hoosiers, in and out of the General Assembly, who do not see that manufacturing is the heart of our past 100 years and the essential core of our next century.

In Asheville, pollution, hunger, and homelessness:

Last month, Xpress photographer Jonathan Welch and I joined Hartwell Carson, RiverLink’s French Broad RiverKeeper, on a canoe trip down the Swannanoa River. The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resource’s 2008 "impaired streams" list includes an 11.5-mile stretch of that river — from Bull Creek to the French Broad River — due to "turbidity," which refers to the cloudiness caused by too much dirt in the water.

Paddling along the portion that runs alongside Swannanoa River Road, which winds underneath the bridges that connect to Circuit City and Wal-Mart, we saw a lot of junk: sports balls, shopping carts, fast-food trash, you name it. We also saw erosion along the banks, dirt islands in the middle of the waterway caused by sediment buildup over time, and many pipes that pump polluted storm-water runoff straight into the creek. (Granted, it’s generally better to have water washing into the creek than flooding major traffic arteries. In most places, there’s little to be done to filter the storm-water at this point, since so much has already been paved over.)

As we paddled past what seemed to be a temporary homeless encampment set up in a riverside patch of trees, two men laughed as they saw us go by. One hollered, "Can I hitch a ride to Tennessee?"

In Asheville, laws against littering and pollution are unenforced by federal and state regulators -- a direct result of having hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars spent on Iraq every year. There is a dramatic decline in new hunters signing up over the last several years as there are fewer and fewer opportunities for people to appreciate the outdoors. Back when Franklin Roosevelt was our President, it was considered patriotic to care about conservation. Now, it no longer is.

And rivers that look like swamps and wastewater are a direct result of the right-wing mentality of "it's not my problem" that has infected our society and our government since Ronald Reagan took over. It used to be that conservation programs were taken very seriously. Now, the mentality is that things like the pollution of rivers like the Swannanoa is not the EPA's problem in the minds of the people that work there. After all, if government is the problem, then, in their twisted way of thinking, I would be part of the problem if I tried to intervene. And a vote for John McCain would be a vote for more of that way of thinking.

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Originally posted to Stop the Police State! on Thu Apr 24, 2008 at 08:02 AM PDT.

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