In the News: Week of January 12th

What happened in the world from January 12th - 18th

Happy Sunday morning everyone! I hope you all had a great week and if you are lucky enough to have the day off tomorrow, enjoy the long weekend.

In the news this week

The January Democratic debate took place Tuesday night, the last debate before voting begins in Iowa and the smallest yet with only six candidates making the stage. The controversy of the night was the Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders conflict, instigated by CNN. Anonymous sources told CNN earlier in the week that Sanders told Warren in December 2018 that he didn’t believe a woman could win in 2020. Since the only two people in that December 2018 meeting were Sanders and Warren, the leak obviously came from the Warren camp. Her recent struggles in the polls may be behind the attack, but the attack was not completely unprovoked; a script the Sanders campaign reportedly gave to volunteers leaked a few days earlier, and it portrayed Elizabeth Warren as the candidate for the highly-educated and affluent.

Sanders strongly denied the allegations on the debate stage, and in his statement Monday said he told Warren in 2018 that “Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could.” It’s worth pointing out that Bernie Sanders has been saying a woman could be elected president since at least 1988, and Sanders only ran in 2016 after failing to convince Elizabeth Warren to run. The allegations brought by the Warren campaign against him seem unbelievable to many Sanders supporters, and the leak may end up backfiring on Warren and further damage her chances of winning the nomination.

When it’s all said and done, the biggest winner of the debate (and of the conflict) might be Joe Biden, who quietly stayed out of trouble all night. He wasn’t exactly sharp, but he continues to do well in polls, and it may be enough to win the nomination.

The Senate formally began the impeachment trial of President Trump on Thursday. Trump is charged with high crimes and misdemeanors. On Friday, it was reported that President Trump planned on adding Kenneth Starr, who investigated Bill Clinton’s sexual relationships which led to Clinton’s impeachment, and Alan Dershowitz, lawyer for OJ Simpson and Jeffrey Epstein, to his legal team. Impeachment proceedings are expected to continue for several weeks, and will undoubtedly end in an acquittal for President Trump by the Republican-majority Senate.

LSU won the college football national championship game on Monday night, beating Clemson 42-25. LSU was led to victory by their quarterback Joe Burrow, winner of the Heisman Trophy. LSU started slow out of the gates, and was down 17-7 early in the 2nd quarter. The Tigers (of LSU) were able to score three touchdowns in the second quarter to go into halftime up 28-17, and they never looked back from there. This is LSU’s fourth national championship, with the other three coming in 1958, 2003, and 2007.

After the game, Cleveland Brown and former LSU player Odell Beckham Jr. handed out cash to several players and slapped a security officer on the buttocks in the locker room. The security officer appeared to be questioning an LSU player about the contents of a bottle near the player. A warrant has been issued for OBJ with a count of simple battery. Authorities originally sought a warrant for misdemeanor sexual battery, but it was declined by a judge.

Headline of the Week: Indiana’s Oldest State Worker Is Retiring at 102: ‘I’ve Been A Pretty Lucky Guy’

Bob Vollmer is retiring from Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources next month after almost 60 years of service. He’s not planning to slow down in retirement much, and is currently planning projects he’s preparing to build for his great-grandkids. He started work back when it was known as the Department of Conservation in the early 1960s at age 45. His mother lived to be 108, so he definitely inherited some great genes. Here’s to hoping he can accomplish everything he wants to in retirement.

Recommended Reading: ‘They Were Conned’: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers

In New York City, a medallion gives cab drivers the freedom to own a yellow cab instead of working for anyone else, and set their own hours. They have been highly sought after, but the medallion bubble burst in late 2014, after prices hit a high of around $1.3 million in 2013. Although their medallions are not worth nearly the value they once were (prices have plummeted to as low as $110,500), drivers are still on the hook for the full loan balances of the medallions.

This has led to a sense of despair and anguish among drivers, many of whom come from different countries in pursuit of a better life for themselves and their families (only 9% of cab drivers were born in the United States). Over 4,000 drivers used their life savings to buy medallions, more than 950 have filed for bankruptcy, and several drivers have taken their own lives.

It would be easy to blame the crash of medallion prices on ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, but a New York Times investigation found that wasn’t the case. The investigation found that a handful of industry leaders artificially drove up the price of medallions, creating a bubble that eventually burst. What did they have to gain? Bankers, brokers, lawyers, investors, fleet owners, and debt collectors all profited from the rise in medallion prices. They took advantage of people who usually did not speak English as a first language; they sold a dream that did not exist, and hundreds filed bankruptcy and some have committed suicide.

Drivers often signed interest-only loans with ridiculous fees, which required them to forfeit their legal rights and give up almost all of their monthly income to pay for the medallion. One Pakistani immigrant thought he was only taking out a loan for a car but ended up with a medallion loan for $780,000. Almost every loan the New York Times reviewed had a clause that spiked the interest rate to as much as 24% if it wasn’t fully paid off after three years, which inevitably led to borrowers extending the loan at a higher rate with additional fees.

Many in New York City have asked the city to bail out cab owners, and others want the city to pressure banks to forgive the medallion loans. A high-level panel in the city intends to propose a bailout that could cost as much as $500 million, and some top city officials have shown support. The bailout wouldn’t necessarily solve all of the problems for cab drivers; a private partnership would buy medallion loans at discounted prices and forgive much of the debt and lower interest rates, but not wipe out the debt entirely. It also isn’t clear if the partnership would be able to convince lenders to sell the loans.

One might wonder why they don’t just declare bankruptcy; bankruptcy costs money they may not have, ruins credit, and, most importantly, would get rid of their only source of income. For now, drivers remain trapped in predatory loans.

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