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Category: In the News (page 1 of 13)

Can America Really Have High Speed Internet for All?

Via WNYC Studios: The Takeaway

Source: Pixabay

If this country really has ambitions of having a 5G revolution like the one being talked about the Consumer Electronics Show this week, we need something else first.

Fiber optic connections that reach everyone.

“What it is is synthetic glass, in which the manufactured process is so carefully controlled that light can travel through that glass for many dozens of miles without using any of the signal that it’s carrying,” says Susan Crawford, a professor at Harvard Law School and the author of “Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution – and Why America Might Miss it.”

And here’s what she means when she says we might miss it: Of the 119 million households in the United States, only about 10 million have access to fiber connections. China, on the other hand, has a goal of connecting 300 million of its 455 million households to cheap, high capacity fiber by 2020.

Susan Crawford says fiber technology is the biggest tech story the United States should be paying attention to in 2019.

Listen to this segment here.

Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission Announces New Members, Including HLAB Clinical Professor and Faculty Director Esme Caramello

Via Mass.gov 

The Supreme Judicial Court [appointed] eight new members to the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission.

First established by the Supreme Judicial Court in 2005, the Commission seeks to improve access to justice for people who are unable to afford an attorney for essential civil legal needs, such as cases involving housing, consumer debt, and family law. Among other activities, the Commission coordinates with civil legal aid organizations to support their activities and develop new initiatives to address unmet needs. The Commission also works to increase the number of attorneys able to provide pro bono or limited assistance civil legal services and coordinates with the court system on initiatives that assist individuals to better understand and navigate civil legal proceedings.

Co-chaired by Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants and Susan M. Finegan, Esq., of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky & Popeo, P.C., the Commission includes representatives from the court system, legal aid organizations, social service organizations, bar associations, law schools, businesses, and other stakeholders in the access to justice community.

“The Commission welcomes our new members and appreciates their commitment to serve on the Commission in addition to the important positions they already hold, and their dedication to making our justice system work effectively for all of the Commonwealth’s residents,” Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Gants said.

“We are pleased to have the opportunity to work with these new members, whose wide-ranging experience and knowledge will further strengthen our efforts to carry out the Commission’s mission,” said Attorney Finegan.

The eight newly appointed commissioners are:

  • Esme Caramello, Clinical Professor and Faculty Director at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, Harvard Law School;
  • Hon. Fairlie Dalton, First Justice of the Northeast Housing Court;
  • Sandra Gant, Trial Attorney, Norfolk Superior Court Trial Unit, Committee for Public Counsel Services;
  • Richard Johnston, Chief Legal Counsel, Office of the Attorney General, and former WilmerHale partner;
  • Jennifer Grace Miller, Counsel to the Massachusetts Senate, and former chief of the Government Bureau at the Office of the Attorney General;
  • Susan Nagl, Executive Director of South Coastal Counties Legal Services;
  • Anthony Owens, Clerk-Magistrate of the Dorchester Division of the Boston Municipal Court; and
  • Mary Ryan, Partner, Nutter McClennen & Fish, and former president of the Boston Bar Association, former chair of the Supreme Judicial Court’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services, and former chair of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service.

Over the past 13 years, the Commission has undertaken a broad number of initiatives to support and expand assistance for people in need of civil legal aid in the areas of consumer protection and debt, housing, employment, family law, immigration and asylum cases, among many others. Recent initiatives include the following:

  • The Access to Justice Fellows program enlists senior attorneys and retired judges to volunteer their time for pro bono projects that support non-profit organizations or work with legal services to help people with civil cases such as indigent asylum-seekers or individuals facing eviction proceedings or bankruptcy. To date, more than 100 retired lawyers and judges have provided over 80,000 hours of pro bono service to 60 nonprofit entities through this program, which is managed by the Lawyers Clearinghouse.
  • The Civil Appeals Clinic provides a weekly clinic for eligible litigants who are representing themselves at the Appeals Court in civil appellate court matters on a number of issues, ranging from housing to family law (and full representation for selected qualifying persons), in collaboration with the Volunteer Lawyers Project, participating law firms and legal services organizations, and the Clerk’s Offices of the Appeals Court and the Supreme Judicial Court.
  • In 2016, the Justice for All project awarded the Commission a $100,000 grant to develop a strategic action plan for improving access to justice throughout the Commonwealth. In December of 2017 the Commission published a comprehensive Strategic Action Plan in collaboration with a wide range of representatives from the access to justice community. The grant was funded by the Public Welfare Foundation and administered by the National Center for State Courts.
  • The Commission partnered with legal services organizations and Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in the state, to win a second Justice for All grant to fund two new pilot projects to test innovative strategies for improving access to justice in the areas of consumer debt and housing.
  • The Commission worked with the Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance, along with the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation and other stakeholders, to allocate $8.3 million in funding to support civil legal aid for victims of crime under the Federal Victims of Crime Act.

More information about these projects and the Commission’s other activities is available in its Annual Report for 2017-2018 and on the Access to Justice Commission’s website.

People in Puerto Rico Can’t Get the Same Hepatitis C Meds as Other American Citizens Do

Via Tonic

Source: Flickr

By: Carmen Heredia Rodriguez

Drugs that can cure hepatitis C revolutionized care for millions of Americans living with the deadly liver infection. The drugs came with a steep price tag—one that prompted state Medicaid programs to initially limit access to the medications to only the sickest patients. That eased, however, in many states as new drugs were introduced and the prices declined.

But not in Puerto Rico: Medicaid patients in the American territory get no coverage for these drugs.

The joint federal-territory healthcare program for the poor—which covers about half the island’s population—does not pay for hepatitis C medications. They also do not cover liver transplants, a procedure patients need if the virus causes the organ to fail.

The Puerto Rico Department of Health created a separate pilot project in 2015 to provide hepatitis C medications to those sickened by the liver infection who also have HIV, but expanded the program later to those with only hepatitis C. However, according to the Office of Patient Legal Services, an official territorial agency that advocates for consumers, the program ran out of funding and is no longer accepting patients only with hepatitis C.

The Puerto Rico Health Insurance Administration (ASES), which oversees Medicaid, says it is working with a pharmaceutical company to create a cost-effective system to provide these medications.

“Definitely, they need to be given coverage,” ASES director Angela Ávila Marrero says. “They need to be given care.”

The Department of Health did not comment.

Hepatitis C, a bloodborne infection, increases the risk of cirrhosis, liver cancer, and death. Poor screening led many to contract the disease through tainted blood and organ transplants through the early 1990s. Today, intravenous drug use drives most of the new cases in the United States.

William Ramirez, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Puerto Rico, says he is considering filing suit against Puerto Rico for failing to cover the cost of these medications for people enrolled in Medicaid.

You’re holding back medication and thereby allowing certain people to die,” Ramirez says.

That reality is clear for Hector Marcano, 62, who stopped working roughly six years ago because of the illness. After recovering from a drug addiction, he was a case manager who worked to connect drug users to health resources.

His liver disease is leading to overall deterioration. He struggles with walking. A bout of pneumonia that left him hospitalized lingers in his racking coughs. He spends his days reading, listening to the radio, and praying for the strength to keep searching for the cure.

He doesn’t understand why the government does not provide hepatitis C medications, he says, especially as there are so many people in need of them.

“So what are we waiting for?” asked Marcano. “For a pandemic to happen?”

Medicaid costs drive island’s debt crisis

Approximately 3.5 million people in the United States have hepatitis C. The virus can silently corrode the liver for years without causing symptoms.

Because of the condition’s stealthy nature and the absence of recent data, the number of people in Puerto Rico living with the virus is uncertain. Researchers on the island in 2010 estimated that 2.3 percent of 21- to 64-year-old residents had the virus.

Documents provided by the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School show medical providers reported more than 11,000 hepatitis C cases to the Puerto Rico Department of Health from 2010 to September 2016.

Cynthia Pérez Cardona, an epidemiology professor at the University of Puerto Rico and an author of multiple studies involving hepatitis C in Puerto Rico, says she is uncertain of how widespread the virus is on the island. But other statistics present a worrisome sign: A report from the island’s cancer registry found the number of new liver cancer cases increased an average of 2.1 percent annually among men and 0.7 percent among women from 1987 to 2014. Hepatitis C can cause such cancers.

Despite these warnings, Puerto Rico has fewer resources than most of the nation to care for its impoverished.

Unlike states, Puerto Rico’s federal funding for Medicaid is capped. Historically, these federal dollars have fallen far short of covering the program’s costs on the island. The territory’s crushing Medicaid expenses helped drive the island into its $70 billion debt crisis.

Under these financial constraints, says Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, Puerto Rico’s officials are left with a difficult choice when considering covering hepatitis C drugs.

“Rather than blowing through their cap in six months,” Salo says, “they’d blow through their cap in one month.”

Pilot project falls short

In the health department’s pilot project, patients with certain conditions like uncontrolled diabetes or an active mental health condition or those who could not prove they had been sober for six months were barred.

Such restrictions rankle patients and their advocates. “You know, we do not deny lung cancer treatment for a person who smokes or diabetes treatment to a person that doesn’t eat well,” says Robert Greenwald, a professor at Harvard Law School and faculty director of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation.

José Vargas Vidot, a member of Puerto Rico’s Senate and a physician, submitted a petition in 2017 to various territorial agencies questioning Medicaid’s coverage of hepatitis C medications.

The Office of Patient Legal Services responded to Vargas Vidot in a letter this year confirming that the island’s Medicaid program did not cover these drugs. It also noted the health department pilot project closed its wait list after reaching 100 patients because of a lack of funding. In November, Vargas Vidot submitted legislation to require that hepatitis C medication and treatment be part of basic coverage for insurance plans and Medicaid.

Ávila Marrero says ASES is in talks with a drugmaker to create a network separate from the Medicaid program to provide medications to the patients. She is hoping the arrangement would allow the government to get lower prices for the drugs. But no agreements have yet been reached for such a program.

Despite its success in states, suing to get coverage may not be the best option for Puerto Rico because the debt rescue package passed by Congress in 2016 includes a provision that bars creditors from taking legal action to collect from the territory.

That could apply to a lawsuit filed against the territory for not covering hepatitis C treatment in its Medicaid program, says Phillip Escoriaza, a health and federal grants law attorney in Washington, D.C., who practiced in Puerto Rico.

And even if the case can go forward, it would enter the docket for a special bankruptcy court with more than 165,000 other claims, as of January 2. It may be in the Puerto Rican government’s interest for things to take a long time, Escoriaza says. Once there, it could stall for years—time hepatitis C patients such as Marcano might not have.

Paving the Way for Self-Driving Cars

Via The Harvard Gazette

By: Juan Siliezar

Susan Crawford at HLS recently taught a class of students from several different schools, with the city of Boston as a client, to help it think through policy implications for the coming of autonomous vehicles. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

The day will come, if it hasn’t already, when you’ll be riding down the road, glance to the side, and see a car motoring along with no driver. Autonomous vehicles are on the way, and two Harvard initiatives are helping to prepare Boston, and beyond, for their smooth arrival.

A few years ago, when tech companies like Uber and Airbnb spread across the nation and beyond, they introduced rapid and irreversible changes in how people travel. As the firms’ simple apps rocketed their platforms to popularity, the local policymakers responsible for ensuring that corporations contribute to the public good were left far behind, playing catch-up.

Policymakers around the globe grappled unevenly with these sudden technological shifts. In Hungary, lawmakers blocked Uber, and in Boston lawmakers passed tough laws on short-term housing rentals. Last summer, Cambridge officials ordered Bird, a dockless electric scooter rental company overseen by an app, to remove its scooters after it arrived without an agreement to operate. Now, as autonomous vehicles (AVs) are increasingly rolling through some American cities, policymakers are looking to avoid the past mistakes of reacting after the arrival of disruptive technology, and instead they’re planning for it.

They hope that, with thoughtful policies in place, self-driving cars will debut in a way that provides real public value. Their potential to improve civic life is great, including by reducing road deaths, increasing mobility for the elderly and disabled, and boosting transit in areas with little current access. At the same time, policymakers are wary of potential problems, such as increased road congestion, inequitable pricing and availability, and the loss of public revenue in a future with less need for metered parking and fewer traffic violations.

Current Harvard efforts are helping government officials to frame their early policies around AVs and provide recommendations for useful future laws. The efforts range from marathon discussion sessions in four locations, including Boston, to Harvard students tackling similar issues with Boston officials.

Here’s a look at these futuristic yet pragmatic Harvard efforts:

From craziness to preparing for a coming reality

Like many people, when Harvard lecturer in public Mark Fagan first heard the buzz around autonomous vehicles, he wrote it off as wishful thinking. That line of thinking, however, didn’t last long. “I just became convinced from talking to people that it wasn’t crazy, and it was really going to happen, and we ought to be ahead of it,” Fagan said.

As head of the new Autonomous Vehicle Policy Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School’s (HKS) Taubman Center for State and Local Government, Fagan is working to do just that, help officials craft policies while the technology is still emerging.

“What cities and towns are trying to do with AVs is plan in advance so that they bring them logically to the market in a way that supports public value as opposed to just private value,” Fagan said.

As part of their early effort, Fagan and Rafael Carbonell, executive director of the Taubman Center, reached out to the city of Boston, which has been a test bed for self-driving cars and was looking to dive deeper into the policy side. The pair worked with the city to convene more than 40 representatives from the business, technology, community, and transit sectors to conduct an exercise developed by Fagan called a policy scrum, an intensive session in the mold of a design sprint or hackathon. Completed over two days, the exercise helps officials fast-track their thinking on issues. The hope is they’ll leave a session with strategy options to shape policy.

For Boston, the priority was looking at how to encourage shared rides and vehicles within autonomous vehicle technology. In its Go Boston 2030 transportation plan, the city has endorsed using shared fleets of self-driving vehicles to reduce congestion.

Mark Fagan is leading the Autonomous Vehicle Policy Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government. AVPI people have worked with Boston, Tornonto, Kansas City and the state of Rhode Island to help officials there prepare for the vehicles. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

“Largely what we came away with was a focus on curb management as the next piece that we should tackle to get at this sort of sharing component,” said Kristopher Carter, co-chair of the mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, which oversees the city’s vehicle program. “We can use that as a tool to incentivize certain behaviors, as well as to incentivize certain types of vehicles or businesses.”

After the initial foray with Boston, Fagan and Carbonell expanded the initiative’s reach to Toronto, Kansas City, and the state of Rhode Island. Each policy scrum in those places produced insights for possible implementation.

In Kansas City, for example, the participants changed a conversation on data ownership and access — which is among the most controversial issues involving both driverless car programs and ride-hail companies — to focus instead on what policymakers need the data to answer. That question proved more fundamental than debating with tech companies over who should have access to the data. This switch, Fagan said, should prompt tech companies to be more open to sharing data since they know its intended use.

The Autonomous Vehicle Policy Initiative is also sharing information among the scrum hosts so they can learn from one another. The initiative hopes to publish that information on its website as well. It is focused on involving students in its work, by having them help with the policy scrums or bringing learning from the sessions into the classroom.

In the spring, the initiative will work with three more cities. More partnerships are likely. Increasingly, the initiative is hearing from officials struggling to develop policies around disruptive technologies.

“AV is very much at the forefront,” Carbonell said.

“We’ve done some marketing, but now we’re starting to see a little bit of a tipping point and people starting now to come to us and say, ‘Hey, we hear you do this thing on AV policy. Tell me more about it,’” Fagan said.

The autonomous vehicle revolution that was once dismissed is happening. The real craziness, officials say, would be not being prepared for it.

Providing a 21st-century education for 21st-century issues

There is broad understanding that many pivotal issues facing the world — such as climate change, immigration, and labor shortages — are intertwined, and changes in one can affect another. The shifts don’t develop in isolation.

Harvard Law School Professor Susan Crawford understands that the rise of autonomous vehicles will be no different. To properly prepare the students who will not only have to adapt to these technologies but someday help shape them, their education cannot happen in isolation either.

So when Crawford, the John A. Reilly Clinical Professor of Law, designed her class “Autonomous Vehicles and Local Government Lab,” she made sure that its 80 students would be exposed to an interdisciplinary effort from a range of Schools, ensuring students would learn from each other.

She designed the course with Boston officials so that her lab — made up of students from Harvard College, the Graduate School of Design, the Kennedy School, the Law School, and the T.H. Chan School of Public Health — could take on the city as a client.

“It’s a wonderful mesh,” Crawford said. “This class is not only an argument for cross-training but also for serving in local government, or government in general. It’s an argument that all urban planners need to know something about the law and that all techies need to know something about design and urban planning. It’s thoroughly meshing students from different Schools to take on concrete questions posed by Boston as it considers the introduction of AVs.”

The course served in part as an introduction to the issues surrounding driverless vehicles. Each week Crawford brought in experts with different perspectives, such as that of the private sector (which students learned, in part, from a representative from nuTonomy, one of the driverless vehicle companies testing cars in Boston) or the labor side (which they learned from the assistant commissioner for data and technology at the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission).

[This class is] an argument that all urban planners need to know something about the law and that all techies need to know something about design and urban planning.
— Susan Crawford, Harvard Law School

At its core, though, the course was a laboratory where students in group projects could apply their learning to real-world scenarios. The questions and prompts posed by Boston officials targeted issues they’re confronting as they expand the AV testing, now happening in the Seaport area, to the rest of the city. Questions ranged from concerns about the city’s authority over curbsides to data-access needs.

“The class really exposed us to a variety of angles and discourse currently surrounding AV literature and discussion,” said Evan Shieh, a master’s student from the Design School. “Having a client drove us to ground the group work into recommendations that were actionable, but also allowed us to ground the scope of examination with respect to specific contextual issues facing Boston today.”

For the project, Shieh’s group, which also had students from the Law School, looked into whether the city should invest in smart infrastructure, who should pay for it, and how and when to implement it. In a future of autonomous vehicles, smart infrastructure, such as high-tech street signs or infrared lane markers, would provide driverless cars with data on traffic conditions and on lane safety during bad weather. The data could also help officials design better roads or establish policies to reduce congestion.

That team studied smart infrastructure used in other cities in the U.S., such as Detroit, and around the world, such as in Israel or Singapore, speaking to a member of the nuTonomy team there.

At the end of the course, students presented their recommendations to the city and other stakeholders. They included strategies to maximize the use of data collected from autonomous vehicles, options for the city on smart infrastructure, and establishing rules around AV pickup and drop-off zones.

Carter, who also has worked with HKS’s Autonomous Vehicle Policy Initiative, was impressed with the recommendations. “There was a balance of ‘Is this legally possible?’ and ‘What does it actually mean in the physical environment?’ and then ‘How does a policy with it manifest itself?’” he said.

For Crawford, the way the students interacted validated the way she structured the course.

“I want the students to be able to imagine themselves working in government,” she said. “I want them to appreciate the range of the kinds of thinking that are involved in policy planning [and put something together] that’s useful for the city.”

The students are submitting a consolidated briefing on their recommendations.

In Suing Boston, Airbnb Argues It’s Not Responsible For Illegal Listings

Via WGBH 

Source: Flickr

By: Isaiah Thompson

Last summer, Boston’s City Council and Mayor Marty Walsh passed Boston’s first ordinance regulating short-term rentals in the city, aimed at allowing homeowners to make extra money while stopping investor owners from buying up real estate to establish de facto Airbnb hotels.

The ordinance allows homeowners to rent extra rooms, or one entire apartment, as long as they register with the city and pay a small fee; and it prohibits short-term rentals by absentee, or so-called “investor” owners.

Airbnb lobbied hard against the measure; when it passed, the company threw the book at the City of Boston: Airbnb sued the city in federal court, arguing the ordinance is illegal.

The lawsuit here could have national implications.

That’s because central to the company’s case is a federal law called the Communications Decency Act – or CDA – specifically, one part of that act known as Section 230.

It says that internet companies can’t be held responsible for what users post on it.

“So basically what that means is I cannot be held responsible as the publisher of information that a user puts up there,” says Mason Kortz. Kortz is a clinical instructional fellow at Harvard Law School Cyber Law Clinic.

“If I post something defamatory about you on Facebook – I can be held liable, Facebook cannot be held liable,” Kortz explains. “Because they didn’t post the defamatory material, they just provided a service.”

In this case, Airbnb is taking aim at parts of Boston’s ordinance that penalize any quote ” booking agent” for listing rentals that violate the city’s new rules.

Airbnb argues it’s just publishing those ads — if people want to post illegal rentals — according to the Communications Decency Act – hey, that’s not Airbnb’s problem.

Airbnb did not respond to a request for comment.

Of course, Airbnb doesn’t just publish other people’s ads – the platform helps users register and post listings, it connects hosts and prospective renters, it provides feedback and ratings – and of course, it takes a cut of the rental proceeds.

“The argument I think Boston is likely to bring here is that they’re not holding Airbnb liable for publishing the advertisements that are put up by third-party hosts,” says Kortz.

“They’re holding them liable for facilitating third-party booking.”

It’s not the first time that argument’s been raised. The City of San Francisco raised the same argument, after Airbnb sued over a similar ordinance there – and a federal district judge sided with San Francisco.

“The district court said publishing the listings was not a problem,” says Eric Goldman, a professor of law at the University of Santa Clara and a co-director of the school’s High Tech Law Institute.

“However the moment that Airbnb took money on behalf of the listing vendor, then the city could regulate its activity and impose basically unrestricted sanctions..”

Airbnb appealed that decision, but the lawsuit was settled before the higher courts could rule one way or another.

That’s why Airbnb’s lawsuit against the City of Boston could set the stage for how and whether local communities across the country can regulate Airbnb and other and other Internet giants.

Goldman, who helped write an amicus brief supporting Airbnb in its motion for an injunction, says he understands cities’ concerns with preserving rental housing. But he disagrees with the district court’s ruling.

“Imagine if we were talking about a business like Ebay … the logic seems to be saying anybody could impose restrictions on Ebay … now Ebay has to be in the business of policing millions of small vendors that it doesn’t have the ability of policing,” Goldman argues. .

“Now we start to say any online market place can be turned into a police state.”

But other legal scholars disagree.

Abbey Stemler is a professor of Business Law and Ethics at Indiana University; Stemler also wrote an amicus brief, in a similar lawsuit brought by Airbnb against the City of Santa Monica – but on behalf of the city, not Airbnb.

“Section 230 has been grossly misinterpreted,” argues Stemler. The act, she says, “has been invoked to say, ‘We cannot be regulated we cannot be deputized to regulate ourselves.”

Stemler agrees that the CDA’s protections in many ways helped foster a better, freer internet – but says that the Act was never meant to immunize deep-pocketed companies like Airbnb from cities’ and towns’ traditional right to govern and regulate their own communities.

“Local communities have to be able to have a say on how these two thing interact, the physical and the digital,” Stemler says.

“Section 230 was never meant to to prohibit all forms of regulation for technologies that use the internet – it simply wasn’t.”

But Stemler says there could be trouble ahead for Boston – especially because of another part of the city’s ordinance, that requires Airbnb to submit regular reports to the city detailing where, when and for how many days its users are engaging in short-term rentals.

Another federal law – also cited in Airbnb’s lawsuit – protects online platforms from sharing user information. And because Airbnb doesn’t make host addresses public, the city will have an uphill battle enforcing its own ordinance without that information.

Stemler says the city might have to settle for spot enforcement – or relying on complaints.

Meanwhile, Airbnb and the city have called a temporary cease-fire: the city agreed to hold off enforcing the parts of its ordinance that could punish Airbnb, while the federal judge overseeing the cases decides whether or not to grant Airbnb a temporary injunction.

The ordinance remains in full effect for prospective hosts.

Veterans win lawsuit against Massachusetts over denial of Welcome Home bonus

Via MassLive

Source: Pexels

By: Shira Schoenberg

Three veterans who sued Massachusetts for denying them a Welcome Home bonus should receive the money, a Suffolk Superior Court judge ruled.

The ruling could affect an estimated 4,000 veterans who served multiple tours of duty and received an other than honorable discharge from the final one, according to the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, which represented the plaintiffs in the case.

Judge Michael Ricciuti found in a Dec. 21 decision that the interpretation of the law by Treasurer Deborah Goldberg’s office, which administers the bonus, and the Veterans’ Bonus Appeal Board was “erroneous as a matter of law, arbitrary and capricious.”

Lead plaintiff Jeffrey Machado said in a statement, “What really matters to me is that other Massachusetts veterans will be recognized for their honorable service to our country. It’s less about the bonus itself — it’s about what it represents.”

Goldberg spokeswoman Chandra Allard said Goldberg’s office is reviewing the decision and has not yet decided whether to appeal.

Massachusetts offers veterans who served after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks a Welcome Home bonus as long as they receive an honorable discharge. The bonus is $1,000 for veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan and $500 for those who served elsewhere for at least six months.

Machado, Herik Espinoza and Washington Santos all served multiple tours of duty, but received “other than honorable” discharges from the final one. Goldberg’s office and then the Veterans’ Bonus Appeal Board declined to pay the bonus. They cited the state law, which says the veteran must have been discharged “under honorable conditions.”

The veterans argue that they were honorably discharged from their initial tours of duty, so they should receive the benefit for those tours. They also note that less than honorable discharges often stem from conduct related to mental or physical problems that come from military service, like post-traumatic stress disorder.

All three served in Afghanistan and were diagnosed with PTSD, which they said led to their discharges.

In his ruling, Ricciuti said the Appeal Board should have given the veterans the bonus for their initial tours of duty. He notes that if a veteran came home between tours and applied for the benefit from the initial tour, he would receive it, even if he later re-enlisted. It would be “unjust,” Ricciuti writes, to deny a benefit to someone who re-enlists from overseas and does not apply for the bonus until after his final tour of duty.

Ricciuti wrote that it is up to the state board, not the military authority who grants the discharge, to decide who gets the Welcome Home Bonus. And he agreed with the veterans that the discharge form granting the “other than honorable” discharge only applied to the most recent tour of duty, not earlier tours.

Riccuiti referred the case back to the Veterans’ Bonus Appeal Board to reconsider its decision in light of the ruling.

Josh Mathew, one of the student attorneys in the Veterans Legal Clinic who represented the plaintiffs, said in a statement, “These veterans went above and beyond. They volunteered for Army Special Operations or for deployments to Afghanistan, and this decision properly recognizes their sacrifices.”

Trump Signs Farm Bill, Announces Food Stamp Work Requirement Rule

Via UPI 

Via Jessie Higgins

President Donald Trump signed the 2018 farm bill Thursday afternoon, ending months of congressional negotiations over the $867 billion legislation.

The bill, which overwhelmingly passed both House and Senate last week, did so in part because lawmakers left out controversial work requirements for food stamp recipients that were originally included in the House version. Those requirements were a key sticking point during joint House and Senate negotiations — and were supported by Trump.

At the signing ceremony, Trump announced a plan to bypass the bill by having the U.S. Department of Agriculture impose stricter work requirements on food stamp recipients.

“I have instructed my administration to take immediate action on welfare reform,” Trump said. “Millions of able-bodied, working-age adults continue to collect food stamps without working or even looking for work. This action … was a difficult thing to get done. But farmers wanted it done, we all wanted it done, and I think in the end it’s going to make a lot of people very happy.”

The new requirements appear as a proposed rule by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The USDA already requires adults who do not have dependents to work at least three months every three years to collect food stamps. However, states can waive that requirement in areas where unemployment is 20 percent above the national average.

The Trump administration’s proposal would raise the waiver threshold, allowing states to waive the requirement only if unemployment is above 7 percent. That’s nearly double the national average of 3.7 percent.

“It’s called work rules and [the USDA] is able under this bill to implement them through regulation,” Trump said.

Some Democrats have decried the new rule and questioned whether Trump can use his executive powers to authorize it.

“Congress writes laws, and the administration is required to write rules based on the law,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate agriculture committee. “Administrative changes should not be driven by ideology. I do not support unilateral and unjustified changes that would take food away from families.”

The farm bill itself received bipartisan support and was largely celebrated by farmers and industry groups.

“It was a bipartisan success, something you don’t hear much,” Trump said at the signing ceremony, as he thanked the various people who worked to get the bill passed. “I want to thank the Democrats, who worked really hard on this bill, they really have. I may have to deny that I said that someday, but I won’t do that. You worked really hard.”

It took time to get there. The 2014 farm bill expired Sept. 30 before a joint House and Senate committee could reach a compromise. The House and Senate had passed strikingly different bills. After its expiration, dozens of programs went on hold.

Farmers and groups who rely on the programs feared they would languish another year if lawmakers didn’t compromise during this year’s lame duck session before a new House and Senate start in 2019.

Ultimately, the 2018 bill maintains most programs as they were before, said Erika Dunyak, a clinical fellow at the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic.

But many groups claim improvements.

“There are some really great things in this bill,” said Ferd Hoefner, a senior adviser for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

A group of programs that support beginning and small farmers, local foods and organic research — among other things — receive permanent funding in the bill, Hoefner said. Previously, those programs had to find new money to operate every five years when the farm bill renewed.

“We’ve been beating this drum for a long time,” Hoefner said. “It’s still a tiny slice of the overall farm bill pie, but it’s a permanent slice now, and it will probably grow over time.”

The bill gives greater support for the struggling dairy industry and it legalizes industrial hemp production.

On the conservation side, the bill directs more money toward soil health initiatives that will improve water quality and fight global climate change.

Not everyone was happy with the compromise.

One change in the 2018 bill allows farm subsidies to go to more distant relatives of farmers. In previous bills, a farmer’s immediate family — who did some kind of work on the farm — could apply for certain federal assistance. Those family members had to be parents, children, siblings or spouses. The 2018 bill expands that list to include first cousins, nieces and nephews.

Under the previous farm bill, such subsidies sometimes went to relatives who did not live or work on the farm, according to the Environmental Working Group, which has criticized the new provision. This new rule may enable more money to go to people who are not farmers, the group has said.

Supporters counter that it will encourage more people to get involved in farming.

The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights At 70: How Far Have We Come?

Via WBUR

By: Sabrineh Ardalan, J. Wesley Boyd and Katherine Peeler

On the evening of Friday, Dec. 10, 1948, the plenary session of the United Nations convened at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris. A robust discussion about a proposed statement on human rights ensued. Ultimately, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by 48 votes with eight abstentions. The sitting U.N. president, Mr. Herbert Vere Evatt of Australia, remarked that it was “the first occasion on which the organized community of nations had made a declaration of human rights and fundamental freedoms.” It’s not surprising that the UDHR came about as a direct commentary on the atrocities of the Holocaust.

Although this December marks the 70th anniversary of the UDHR, we feel compelled to ask whether we have made progress in realizing the principles articulated seven decades ago. Or does it feel like 1948 all over again?

In October, one of the co-authors of this piece, Katherine Peeler, visited an immigrant detention center in Texas. Julia, a migrant whose name has been changed to protect her identity, walked into one of the small rooms set up around the perimeter of a makeshift legal “office.” She was there for a psychological evaluation. She and her 7-year-old son, Wilfred (whose name has also been changed), arrived to the U.S. in June, and were almost immediately forcibly separated per U.S. government policy. Julia’s lawyers, who were assisting her with the pre-asylum screening process, wanted to better understand how detention, and more importantly, the separation from her child, had affected her.

“Separation,” however, does not truly describe what happened. In reality, Wilfred was kidnapped. While Julia knew who had taken Wilfred — the U.S. government — she did not know where he was or how he was doing, information she didn’t know for 20 days. Julia was kept in immigration detention during that time, desperate for news of her son. They weren’t reunited until mid-September — three months after they’d been separated.

People who arrive in the U.S. either without documents (or without valid documents) and who express a fear of returning to their home countries may be subject to a credible fear interview with immigration officials. Julia had her interview one week after U.S. officials took Wilfred. As such, the transcript of Julia’s interview is almost non-sensical. No matter what question the asylum officer asked, Julia’s response was “where is Wilfred?” To conclude that she was conducting the most important interview of her life under stressed conditions is an understatement.

The UDHR consists of a preamble and 30 short articles. Julia’s story highlights multiple violations of the rights described by the UDHR: Article 5 — no one shall be subjected to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; Article 12 — no one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence; Article 14 — everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution; Article 25 — motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance.

The Trump administration’s recently proposed changes to the public charge rule, if adopted, are a direct violation of UDHR’s stated right to food, clothing, housing, medical care and essential social services. And Trump’s efforts to limit how immigrants can request asylum (though temporarily stayed by a federal judge) violates Article 14, forcing people to live in conditions where their rights are continually violated and their lives are in danger.

But immigration is only one context in the U.S. where violations of the UDHR occur. The U.S. incarcerates a larger share of its population than any other country in the world, worsening a cycle of poverty. And in our on-going battles over healthcare “reform” the stakeholders with the deepest pockets are often able to dictate who gets health care, of what quality and when. As renowned physician anthropologist Paul Farmer notes:

“…whenever and wherever social services are seen as commodities rather than rights, chances are that catastrophic health expenditures will serve as a brake on progress in the fight against poverty and for health.”

But there is reason for hope. While, as a nation, we are in desperate need of acting “towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood” as outlined in the UDHR, we are making small but incremental progress at the local level. Harvard medical students and residents at Massachusetts General Hospital, for example, are running pro-bono clinics performing physical and psychological evaluations to document evidence of immigrants’ asylum claims. Across the river, Harvard law students and lawyers are providing the legal assistance for these same asylum-seekers, as are students and professionals from other clinics and legal services organizations across Boston.

There are movements to provide access to quality health care and public health services for the homeless at Boston Healthcare for the Homeless, the incarcerated through the Crimson Care Collaborative, and victims of human trafficking through the Boston-based grassroots group HEAL Trafficking.

On this 70th anniversary, it is time for a loud, united and public reaffirmation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to support and promote the rights of all individuals — immigrants or citizens, women like Julia and children like Wilfred. Let us protect these fundamental rights through education as outlined in Article 26 — “education…directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

That’s our call in the New Year.

Facebook Sued By US Lawyer Over Cambridge Analytica Data Scandal

Via Hindustain Times 

Source: Pexels

The attorney general for Washington, DC said on Wednesday the US capital city had sued Facebook Inc for allegedly misleading users about how it safeguarded their personal data, in the latest fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The world’s largest social media company has drawn global scrutiny since disclosing earlier this year that a third-party personality quiz distributed on Facebook gathered profile information on 87 million users worldwide and sold the data to British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

Washington, DC Attorney General Karl Racine said Facebook misled users because it had known about the incident for two years before disclosing it. The company had told users it vetted third-party apps, yet made few checks, Racine said.

Facebook said in a statement: “We’re reviewing the complaint and look forward to continuing our discussions with attorneys general in DC and elsewhere.”

Facebook could be levied a civil penalty of $5,000 per violation of the region’s consumer protection law, or potentially close to $1.7 billion, if penalized for each consumer affected. The lawsuit alleges the quiz software had data on 340,000 D.C. residents, though just 852 users had directly engaged with it.

Shares in the company were down 4.7 percent in afternoon trade on Wednesday.

Privacy settings on Facebook to control what friends on the network could see and what data could be accessed by apps were also deceiving, Racine said.

“Facebook’s lax oversight and confusing privacy settings put the information of millions of consumers at risk,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “In our lawsuit, we’re seeking to hold Facebook accountable for jeopardizing and exposing the information” of its customers.

Racine said Facebook had tried to settle the case before he filed the lawsuit, as is typical during investigations of large companies.

He described Facebook’s cooperation as “reasonable,” but said that a lawsuit was necessary “to expedite change” at the company.

At least six US states have ongoing investigations into Facebook’s privacy practices, according to state officials.

In March, a bipartisan coalition of 37 state attorneys wrote to the company, demanding to know more about the Cambridge Analytica data and its possible links to US President Donald Trump’s election campaign.

Also in March, the Federal Trade Commission took the unusual step of announcing that it had opened an investigation into whether the company had violated a 2011 consent decree, citing media reports that raise what it called “substantial concerns about the privacy practices of Facebook.”

If the FTC finds Facebook violated the decree terms, it has the power to fine it thousands of dollars a day per violation, which could add up to billions of dollars.

State attorneys general from both major US political parties have stepped up their enforcement of privacy laws in recent years, said James Tierney, a lecturer at Harvard Law School and Maine’s former attorney general.

Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] in September agreed to pay $148 million as part of a settlement with 50 U.S. states and Washington, DC, which investigated a data breach that exposed personal data from 57 million Uber accounts.

 

Obamacare architect: Dire consequences for Massachusetts

Via The Boston Herald 

By: Jordan Graham

The architect of Obamacare warned the Affordable Care Act could die if the U.S. Supreme Court backs a ruling by a Texas judge calling the law unconstitutional — a decision that would force Massachusetts to strip coverage or pay astronomical bills.

“It’s got very important financial implications for Massachusetts,” said Jonathan Gruber, an economist who has been described as the engineer of the law. “If the Affordable Care Act goes away, it means Massachusetts will have to bear all the costs of covering these people.”

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor hands a victory to 20 Republican governors and state attorneys general who sued to wipe out the 2010 health care law, widely known as Obamacare. If the ACA is eliminated, Massachusetts’ requirements for insurance would be unchanged, but it would mean an end to federal contributions to states that have expanded Medicaid, as Massachusetts does.

Robert Greenwald, director of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School, said nothing will change immediately as a result of the decision by the Texas judge that found the law to be unconstitutional and invalid .

“This is certainly not the final word on the Affordable Care Act,” Greenwald said. “Obviously it’s going to be appealed, it’s going to be a long slog on this and other challenges to the ACA.”

O’Connor, a conservative judge appointed by President George W. Bush, had been widely expected to rule against the law, at least in part. His ruling, however, swept more broadly than many had expected, striking down the entirety of the health care law, including its provisions that have allowed California and 31 other states to expand Medicaid to 15 million Americans and the subsidies that keep insurance affordable for millions of others who do not get health care coverage through their employers.

The judge did not issue an injunction ordering the government to stop carrying out the law, however, meaning that its provisions will remain in effect pending further action.

The Trump administration had partially backed the suit by the conservative states, not endorsing their request to declare the entire law invalid. Instead, the administration had declined to defend the health care law and asked the judge to eliminate its guarantee of coverage for people with pre-existing health conditions.

A group of left-leaning states, led by California, that have stepped in to defend the health care law, quickly said they would appeal O’Connor’s ruling.

President Trump praised the judge’s ruling but health care groups denounced it. The American Medical Association said it would back an appeal, warning that the judge’s ruling would move the U.S. back toward the days when 20 percent of the population lacked insurance.

The states likely will appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Eventually, the case could wind up back at the Supreme Court, which has twice ruled in favor of the law.

Puerto Rico Benefits From Harvard’s Living Lab

Via Harvard Law Today 

Credit: Alyssa Curran
Still suffering from the aftermath of 2017’s Hurricane Maria, the city of Utuado (pictured) will implement a plan for renewable electricity, which was created by Harvard students in the “Climate Solutions Living Lab” course.

A plan designed by a team of Harvard University students to create a reliable source of renewable, affordable electricity for a Puerto Rican community hammered in 2017 by Hurricane Maria has moved a step closer to reality.

The community group Unidos por Utuado has won $100,000 in seed funding from the Puerto Rico Big Ideas Challenge to implement the plan by students enrolled in Harvard’s “Climate Solutions Living Lab” course.

The proposal calls for revitalizing three nearby, long-neglected hydroelectric units to generate inexpensive, reliable electricity that emits virtually no greenhouse gases. The students’ vision is that a community-based electric cooperative would own the power facility and ensure that local residents control new jobs and other benefits created by the project.

“The seed funding will allow the community to form the cooperative and hire people to help them move the concept forward,” said Wendy Jacobs ’81, the faculty leader of the course and the Emmett Clinical Professor of Environmental Law and director of the Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School.

The project began in January 2018 when Jacobs dispatched one of six students on the team, Alyssa Curran, M.U.P. ’18, to the island. Curran toured Puerto Rico, including the storm-ravaged inland community of Utuado, and observed the destruction of homes and commercial buildings, roads, and electric infrastructure. She also connected with Unidos por Utuado, one of many community groups mobilizing disaster relief on the island. At the time, “Climate Solutions Living Lab” was considering several projects in Puerto Rico, and Curran, in consultation with Jacobs, decided one of those should focus on Utuado because of the barriers it faced to storm recovery.

Hurricane Maria decimated Puerto Rico. A Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health study found that the number of deaths related to the September 2017 storm was much larger than the official estimates, and there were 4,645 additional deaths in the three-month period following the storm, which is believed to have caused more than $90 billion in damage. Electric service was only recently restored to the entire island. In Utuado, an isolated mountain community of approximately 30,000, about 30 percent of households were without electricity and safe running water seven months after the storm struck.

Credit: Alyssa Curran 
The power poles in Cayey, located in central Puerto Rico, snapped during the storm.

Back at Harvard, the students participating in the spring 2018 class who were assigned to the Utuado project proposed that rather than build a new power source for the community, they would recycle an old one.

The plan was this: Utuado would create an electric cooperative to acquire and refurbish three legacy hydroelectric units on lakes Dos Bocas and Caonillas and install a pumped solar system. In addition to providing reliable energy, the facility would save money. Puerto Rican’s electric bills are the highest in the U.S. next to Hawaii, the students’ research found, and they believed that adopting their plan could slash electric rates to about 8 cents per kWh, compared with the approximately 20 cents per kWh they now pay.

The benefits to the climate were also clear, according to the students. Currently, 98 percent of Puerto Rico’s electricity is generated by fossil fuels. However, the students estimated the hydroelectric plants would generate approximately 26.5 megawatts of clean energy, with a potential offset of about 115,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents in year one and an average of 105,000 tons of offsets per year over a 20-year time period. Reducing that amount of emissions annually is equivalent to taking more than 22,000 vehicles off the road, or the average energy use of more than 11,000 homes.

The Puerto Rico project is one of nine projects developed in the course since its 2017 launch, as part of Harvard’s ambitious climate action goals and Living Lab initiative.

The innovative course is a partnership between the Office for Sustainability and Harvard Law School and was developed to engage multidisciplinary teams of graduate students in working together to test innovative solutions or renewable energy investments — such as the Puerto Rico project — that achieve actual emissions reductions beyond the Harvard campus while also achieving other social, economic, and health benefits.

Under Jacobs’ leadership, the Climate Solutions Living Lab engages with senior faculty experts from across Harvard’s professional Schools as well as outside experts, and operates like a professional project development team. The teams of six students are comprised of master’s and doctoral students from Harvard Business School (HBS), Harvard Chan School, John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), Law School, Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), Graduate School of Design, and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

In addition to Curran, the Puerto Rico team included: Ethan Hughes, Harvard Chan School; Leticia Rojas, HKS; Bridger Ruyle, SEAS; Max Tenney ’18, HLS; and Isabella Wechsler, HKS and HBS.

This article was published in the Harvard Gazette on December 14, 2018.

Trump Administration Stymies Release of Salary, Loan Debt Data from Certain Colleges, Advocates Say

Via CNBC

By: Annie Nova

At a recent conference on financial aid, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said that every school should help its students graduate with high-quality career prospects and little debt.

Students should be equipped, she added, with information that allows them to be responsible consumers. “They need to have the best possible tools, data, advice and support,” DeVos said, at the Georgia World Congress Center in late November.

Yet at another session at the same conference, Cynthia Hammond, a top Education Department official, said the agency wouldn’t be releasing student debt information on certain programs. “We will not be doing another round of debt-to-earnings rates at this time,” Hammond said to the audience.

Career education programs, including most for-profit colleges, are required to disclose debt and earnings data to prospective and current students, as part of the so-called gainful employment regulation. Under the rule, poor-performing programs are at risk of losing their federal funding.

The regulation is intended to provide students, “with the best information possible when they’re making one of the biggest investments they’re ever going to make,” said Michael Itzkowitz, a senior fellow at Third Way, a think tank in Washington.

The Education Department under DeVos has proposed eliminating the rule. Yet the soonest any such change could go into effect is July 2020, and so advocates were alarmed by Hammond’s comments at the conference. The department has already pushed back the date that schools need to publicly share their gainful employment information.

Critics of DeVos say the delays in data disclosure are another example of her siding with the for-profit industry.

The department can’t access the debt-to-earnings data on different programs because its agreement with the Social Security Administration — which provides the information — has lapsed, said Education Department Press Secretary Liz Hill. She noted that a request to the agency to renew the agreement in March went unanswered.

A spokesman for the Social Security Administration said the agency notified the Education Department in May that it would not enter into a new agreement. He declined to comment further, citing ongoing litigation.

However, no official agreement between the Social Security Administration and the Education Department is needed for the agencies to exchange the gainful employment data, said Eileen Connor, the litigation director at Harvard University’s Project on Predatory Student Lending.

She called the department’s most recent explanation, “a complete smokescreen for DeVos to be able to accomplish the gutting of the gainful employment regulation.”

At the financial aid conference, Hammond explained that the new disclosures certain schools need to display on their websites no longer must include data on student debt or job placement rates.

Half of student loan borrowers from for-profit colleges wind up in default, according to the Brookings Intuition. In a recent report to Congress, the Department of Education’s Inspector General Kathleen S. Tighe said she disagreed with the department’s proposal to rescind the gainful employment regulation without an adequate replacement. She pointed out that for-profit schools have misrepresented their job placement rates and continue to be a place of fraud and abuse.

The Obama administration aggressively enforced the gainful employment regulation in an effort to hold for-profit schools accountable by forcing them to prove their graduates were able to repay their student debt.

The first round of debt and earnings data was released in 2017. More than 750 programs failed the test. For example, graduates with an associate’s degree in graphic design from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh typically earn less than $22,000 a year and have over $40,000 in federal student loan debt, the Education Department found.

Under the rule, schools which fail the test two years in a row are cut off from federal funding. Since the department is not conducting another debt-to-earnings analysis this year, however, no program has lost eligibility under this regulation.

The threat of losing government funding forced schools to improve their value, said James Kvaal, president of The Institute for College Access & Success.

Colleges slashed tuition, offered more scholarships, implemented free trials and worked harder to meet industry standards, he said.

“That’s why we’re very troubled that the Department of Education is turning a blind eye to its obligation to enforce this rule,” Kvaal said.

Farm Bill Passes House And Senate

Via the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation 

iStock

The 2018 Farm Bill just passed the House (368-47), after passing the Senate yesterday (87-13). The Bill now goes to the President’s desk.

Here is the 10,000 foot view of the 2018 Farm Bill as it relates to FBLE priorities:

Food Waste

FBLE is thrilled to see that all of the provisions in the House and Senate drafts of the Farm Bill related to food waste remained in the 2018 Farm Bill. The many provisions included reflect the longstanding recommendations of FBLE member, Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic. This is the first farm bill to dedicate resources to reduce the nearly 40% of the food supply that we currently waste.

Specifically, the Farm Bill includes eight new provisions and programs to reduce food waste, including pilot funding to support state and local composting and food waste reduction plans in 10 states, creation of a Food Loss and Waste Liaison position within the USDA, and clarification and expansion of liability protections for food donations.

SNAP Work Requirements

The controversial House work requirements for SNAP were mostly dropped in the final Farm Bill. These requirements would have forced more SNAP participants to work or participate in job training for at least 20 hours a week. The House Bill also brought in a larger age group and those with school age children to comply with the work requirements. The bill does reduce state waivers to work requirements from the 2014 Farm Bill. As such, states can exempt only 12% of their SNAP recipients from work requirements, as opposed to 15% in the 2014 Farm Bill. Though the Bill does slightly reduce the amount of state waivers, it preserves geographic exemptions to work requirements in areas with high rates of unemployment and does not implement the inflexible House work requirement program. Protecting SNAP recipients from burdensome work requirements is consistent with FBLE recommendations.

Socially Disadvantaged and Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Studies

The 2018 Farm Bill includes two GAO studies specifically concerning socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers (SDFR). One studies barriers to and recommendations for accessing land for SDFR and beginning farmers and ranchers (BFR). The other report will study SDFR access to credit. Both reports must be completed within 120 days of the final passage of the Farm Bill and sent to Congress. These reports are consistent with FBLE recommendations to improve access to credit and land for SDFR. They are also representative of FBLE’s forthcoming recommendations on transparency and access to information.

Crop Subsidy Payment Limits

Contrary to FBLE recommendations, the 2018 Farm Bill does not limit commodity payments to high income farmers and ranchers. This was referred to as the Grassley amendment in the Senate version of the Farm Bill. The 2018 Farm Bill maintains the current adjusted gross income (AGI) cap for commodity payments. But the 2018 Farm Bill goes beyond simply maintaining 2014 law and expands the “active personal management” loophole for those who can receive farm bill payments by adding first cousins, nieces and nephews to the definition of family members. These changes could mean a $1 billion cost increase for the commodity title over the next ten years.

Additionally, the bill lacks income limits on crop insurance subsidies, something FBLE had recommended, and still disproportionally benefits the largest farms over small and midsize operations.

Local Agricultural Market Program

In line with FBLE recommendations, the 2018 Farm Bill streamlines small-scale growers’ and producers’ access to markets through the Local Agricultural Market Program (LAMP). Small farming operations often rely on the increased profit margins at farmers markets, value-added products, and direct-to-consumer sales to be financially viable. LAMP merges the Farmers Market Promotion Program, Local Food Promotion Program, and Value-Added Producer Grant. By combining them, the 2018 Farm Bill for the first time provides permanent baseline funding to these programs; however, at a slightly lower level than the programs were funded separately ($213 million over the course of the 2014 Farm Bill and only $200 million over the duration of the 2018 Farm Bill).

Additionally, the 2018 Farm Bill provides opportunities for SNAP payment innovation in ways that will benefit smaller-scale farmers and farmers markets. Specifically, the 2018 Farm Bill makes it easier for farmers markets to accept SNAP. The 2018 Farm Bill also directs USDA to make SNAP benefits useable at online retail stores nationwide, which could provide more opportunities for farmers to sell directly to consumers online instead of through the traditional channel of farmers markets.

The Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program & Produce Prescription Program

The Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program has been renamed the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, and the mandatory funding was dramatically increased from $135 million over the 2014 Farm Bill to $250 million over the 2018 Farm Bill. This aligns with the FBLE recommendation to provide additional support to FINI.

The 2018 Farm Bill also creates a Produce Prescription Program, based on the proposed Harvesting Health pilot program in the Senate bill. However, the Produce Prescription Program does not have dedicated funds, and pulls money from FINI (newly renamed the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program). With a nearly doubling of funds in the FINI coffers, this will allow Produce Prescription Programs to become much more available. This aligns with FBLE’s recommendation of more investment in food is medicine; however, FBLE would have liked to see an innovative food is medicine pilot to include medically-tailored meals.

Conservation

The 2018 Farm Bill’s conservation title closely aligns with the Senate version of the Farm Bill. Generally, the 2018 Farm Bill doesn’t cut any money to the conservation title; instead the Bill shifts funds around (primarily by moving money from the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) to Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). You can review FBLE’s analysis of conservation title in the Senate Farm Bill here.

The 2018 Farm Bill is consistent with FBLE’s recommendation on allocation of EQIP funds to animal feeding operations. The 2018 Farm Bill drops the mandatory percentage of funds going to animal feeding operations from 60% to 50%.

Other

Finally, there few other important provisions that you will hear circulating in other news outlets. Namely, the forestry title, which some commentators thought would not make it into the final farm bill, is in the 2018 Farm Bill, and growing non-psychoactive hemp is now legal, so farmers may cultivate it and Land Grant Universities may study it.

Stay tuned as FBLE provides more in-depth analysis of the 2018 Farm Bill.

You can read all 807 pages of House and Senate passed Farm Bill Conference Report here!

Harvard Professors Decry Trump Administration Approach to Asylum Policy, Migrant Caravans

Via The Harvard Crimson

By: Ema R. Schumer and Ruoqi Zhang

Harvard professors decried the Trump administration’s asylum policies to a packed room at the Law School Thursday, condemning in particular the administration’s treatment of caravans of Central American migrants seeking asylum in the United States — the latest flashpoint in the country’s immigration debate.

In the hour-long panel, “The Migrant Caravan and the Law and Politics of the Border,” Anthropology Professor Ieva Jusionyte and Law School Clinical Professor Sabrineh Ardalan spoke about the legal, social, and political issues surrounding migrant caravans. Three Law School student organizations — Harvard Immigration Project, Mexican Law Students Association, and La Alianza — hosted the event.

Ardalan began her remarks with an explanation of asylum laws and their historical origins in the aftermath of World War II.

Ardalan specifically criticized the Trump administration’s effort to prohibit migrants from seeking asylum if they do not enter through a “port of entry.” She referred to this policy as the federal government’s latest effort to “roll back asylum protections” for Central American refugees fleeing violence.

“For purposes of seeking asylum, it doesn’t matter where a person enters the U.S.,” she said after she read excerpts from U.S. asylum law, which empowers migrants to apply for asylum regardless of their immigration status or where they enter the country. “The executive branch can’t just rewrite what Congress did.”

In her remarks, Ardalan also rejected the perception that migrants somehow manipulate the asylum system to gain entry into the United States.

“This isn’t a loophole by any means,” she said. “In fact, it’s really hard to gain access to protections that people have a right to.”

Both professors focused on portrayals of migrants and asylum seekers in political discourses and public media. They specifically described Trump’s portrayal of migrant caravans as an “invasion” as an attempt to dehumanize immigrants. One large caravan from Central America originally grabbed Trump’s attention in the spring. That group has since splintered, and several other caravans have followed in its wake.

“[They are] individuals with stories who have really compelling reasons for making a harrowing journey risking their lives and the lives of their small children to save their lives,” Ardalan said.

“By eliminating that real life context of why people are leaving and dehumanizing them, it’s easier to gain public opinion to push through these draconian policies,” she added.

Jusionyte said the Trump administration is not the only party using charged language around immigration, however. She referenced metaphors members of the media and of the public use when discussing immigration.

“People who have the right to ask for asylum and are running for their lives are portrayed as part of this big ‘wave’ that will ‘overflow’ the United States and destroy all of the border,” she said. “Perhaps the president’s rhetoric is a little harsher but it’s in all of how we talk about migration.”

Both professors underscored students’ capacity to change the narrative around immigration.

Ardalan emphasized the power of storytelling. She suggested reframing immigration debates “to connect people to narratives with shared values — values that we all have in common — that we can come back to to try to unify people around messages as opposed to dividing people.”

Harvard Law student and La Alianza member Perla F. “Fabi” Alvelais, who attended the event, reiterated the speakers’ statements. She said the national discourse surrounding immigrants from Central America is “upsetting” and “completely wrong.”

“It’s very upsetting to see how much that rhetoric has stuck with a lot of people and how a lot of people have accepted that,” Alvelais said. “So I think our job in La Alianza as law students is to pushback and show how talented and committed and great our community is.”

Jusionyte applauded students’ passion for the issue. Some Law students have worked with immigration clinics and humanitarian organizations at the border.

“Even for people who are not necessarily studying law,” she added, “there are such ways as to just donate to [American Civil Liberties Union] or these shelters in Mexico or on the U.S. border.”

Jared Golden’s Lawyer Calls Bruce Poliquin Suit ‘sour grapes’

Via the Sun Journal

Peter Brann is a Visiting Lecturer in Law at Harvard Law School and a partner at Brann & Isaacson. At HLS, Brann co-teaches the State Attorney Generals Clinic.

By: Steve Collins

An effort to seek a new election in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District race is an “extraordinary attempt to overturn the results of a fair and free election,” an attorney for U.S. Rep.-elect Jared Golden said in a legal filing late Wednesday.

Peter Brann, the lawyer for the Lewiston Democrat, said the request by U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin to overturn the ranked-choice voting results is unlikely to prevail and ought to be rejected.

“Golden won the election fair and square,” Brann said in legal papers filed with the U.S. District Court in Bangor.

“Poliquin’s sour grapes preliminary injunction is too little, too late, and is outweighed by the injury to the thousands of Maine voters who selected Golden over Poliquin and who would be disenfranchised by Poliquin’s attempt to use the courts to overturn the results of the election,” said Brann, a Lewiston attorney.

“Further, the chaos, disruption and violation of fundamental rights that would result from Poliquin’s attempt to rewrite the rules after the election is anathema to the public interest,” he said.

Poliquin’s lawyers have called for the court to declare the incumbent the winner based solely on first-round results of the state’s new voting system, a round narrowly won by the Republican. In the next and final round, Golden prevailed by more than 3,500 votes out of more than 290,000 cast.

Poliquin argues the ranked-choice system is unconstitutional and unfair. He is seeking a recount that will likely take three or four weeks to complete, according to Secretary of State Matt Dunlap.

“Under Poliquin’s legal theory, any set of voters whose particular goals in voting were frustrated by any election system, including plurality voting, would be able to invalidate that system of voting on constitutional grounds,” Brann said. “This cannot be, and is not, the law.”

In a brief filed with the court Thursday, the Washington, D.C.-based Campaign Legal Center said Poliquin’s attorneys didn’t raise any serious legal claims and “instead muster only policy objections to Maine’s use of ranked-choice voting. Mere disagreements about the policy implications of ranked-choice voting are insufficient to show that it is unconstitutional.”

Phyllis Gardiner, a state lawyer handling the case, said in legal papers that none of Poliquin’s arguments have merit.

Brann said voters cast their ballots “based on their understanding that the (ranked-choice voting) system would be used to determine the winner of the election” and the court should not allow Poliquin to “change the rules” after it’s over.

James Monteleone of Portland, the lawyer for independent candidate Tiffany Bond, told the court in a separate filing that “before and on Election Day, no legal challenge of Maine’s (ranked-choice voting) law was pending in any court. No legal challenge was even threatened.”

“Voters reasonably relied on the fact that the (ranked-choice voting) law … were twice affirmed by Maine’s citizen legislators as the state’s chosen manner of election for its congressional representatives,” he said.

Gardiner said that “granting this motion would disenfranchise over 15,000 voters who ranked the candidates on the expectation that their second- or third-choice vote would be counted if their first choice was defeated in round one.”

Gardiner, Poliquin, Golden, Bond and others are slated to appear in Judge Lance Walker’s courtroom Wednesday to make their cases.

ITT Tech Students Score Victory in Bankruptcy Settlement

Via The Washington Post

Source: Flickr.com 

By: Danielle Douglas-Gabriel

As creditors of ITT Educational Services fight over the remaining assets of the defunct for-profit college operator, one group has secured a significant victory in the bankruptcy proceedings: former students.

On Wednesday, a federal judge gave final approval to a settlement that will erase nearly $600 million that 750,000 students owed ITT Technical Institute. The agreement, which was first announced in January, will also refund $3 million that students paid the for-profit chain.

Before shutting down in 2016, ITT issued students “temporary credits” to cover remaining tuition after federal and private student loans were taken into account. These credits were allegedly marketed as grants, but debt collectors pursued students for the money even after the company filed for bankruptcy.

“ITT routinely lied to hundreds of thousands of students,” said Lorenzo Boyland, 40, who attended ITT Tech in Tennessee from 2008 to 2010. “They targeted people who were eligible for federal loans and grants — including low-income people and veterans like me — and took advantage of our dreams and ambitions.”

Boyland is among the students involved in the lawsuit filed against ITT Educational Services last year to join the line of creditors, federal regulators, state attorneys general and employees seeking redress from the company.

Attorneys for the students asserted a $1.5 billion claim against the company for consumer-protection violations and breach of contract, and asked for status to cover anyone who attended ITT Tech between 2006 and 2016.

Wednesday’s agreement recognizes the claim. If there is money in the estate to pay unsecured claims — debts that are not assured payment — at the end of the bankruptcy, students would receive a share.

In the meantime, ITT’s estate has notified students who are eligible for the debt cancellation, according to the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard Law School, a legal aid group that worked with the law firm Jenner & Block to represent the students.

“This settlement does more for the cheated students of predatory for-profit colleges than [Education Secretary] Betsy DeVos has done in her entire administration,” said Toby Merrill, director of the Project on Predatory Student Lending. “At a time when students are being ignored by their government, ITT students stood up to this predatory college themselves and secured the relief they are owed.”

Merrill is calling on DeVos to forgive the federal loans of ITT Tech students who have petitioned the U.S. Department of Education to cancel their debt under a statute known as borrower defense to repayment. The law, which dates to the 1990s, wipes away federal loans for students whose colleges used illegal or deceptive tactics to get them to borrow money to attend. Advocates for the students say ITT Tech did just that.

The chain was being investigated by more than a dozen state attorneys general and two federal agencies for alleged fraud, deceptive marketing or steering students into predatory loans. That legal morass led an accrediting body to threaten to end its relationship with the chain, which resulted in the Education Department curtailing ITT’s access to federal student aid.

Weeks later, the publicly traded company closed 137 campuses that served 35,000 students and employed 8,000 people. And days after that, the company filed for bankruptcy protection to liquidate its business.

In the wake of the school’s collapse, ITT Tech students have submitted more than 13,000 applications for federal debt relief, though only 33 have been approved, according to the legal aid group.

The Trump administration has stymied efforts to grant relief by refusing to implement an Obama-era revision of the debt-relief rule that sought to simplify the process and shift more of the cost of discharging loans onto schools. DeVos issued a more restrictive rule earlier this year, but advocacy groups and state attorneys general are fighting to have the courts force implementation of the Obama rule.

“While this settlement is a victory, we are still paying federal student loans that funded a school that no longer exists,” said Boyland, a veteran who amassed $52,000 in federal and private loans pursuing an associate degree at ITT Tech. “All I’m asking for — all any of us are asking for — is a fair shot and a fresh start. I just hope the Department of Education is listening.”

More than 20 Utah local leaders file court briefs opposing shrinkage of Bears Ears, Grand Staircase monuments

Via The Salt Lake Tribune 

By: Taylor Stevens

A group of 21 mayors and council members from around Utah have signed onto briefs with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in support of lawsuits filed against President Donald Trump’s shrinking of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.

The amicus friend-of-the-court briefs — filed Monday and drafted by the Harvard Law School’s Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic and the Salt Lake City Attorney’s Office — contend that the process was flawed, with little input from local voices, and that the boundary reduction will have detrimental economic and environmental effects in the state.

“When the Trump administration began its review of Bears Ears and Escalante, many of us knew it was only a matter of time before these monuments were reduced and harm would come to our local economies,” Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, who signed onto the briefs, said in a news release.

The state’s perceived antagonism toward public lands, including designation of the Bears Ears National Monument, resulted in the departure of the Outdoor Retailer convention, which Biskupski said caused immediate economic harm to Salt Lake City through the loss of $45 million dollars in tourist spending. But she said the “truly devastating” part of the decision is its effect on gateway communities and the state’s reputation as friendly to the outdoors.

That’s “why we are filing these briefs,” she wrote, “to give everyone a voice in a decision which has consequences for every community.”

Five of the seven members of the Salt Lake City Council, as well as Salt Lake County Council members Jim Bradley, Arlyn Bradshaw, Jenny Wilson and Ann Granato, all Democrats, also signed on. So did members of the Summit County Council and Alta town council. The mayor of Boulder supported the Grand Staircase brief, while the mayor of Bluff endorsed the Bears Ears one.

 

Trump Is Rewriting Asylum Law

Via The Atlantic 

Source: Pixabay

By: Sabrineth Ardalan

Two days after yet another mass shooting, President Donald Trump on Friday issued a proclamation addressing mass migration. “The continuing and threatening mass migration of aliens with no basis for admission into the United States through our southern border,” he wrote, “has precipitated a crisis and undermines the integrity of our borders. I therefore must take immediate action to protect the national interest.”

The mass shooting, like most mass shootings, was committed by an American citizen, a white male. There’s not much detailed information about who is part of the so-called caravan on the way to the southern border. But it seems the migrants hail mostly from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, where femicide rates are the highest in the world and government protection is nonexistent. Chances are, they resemble my clients at the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program. People like Maria, who was kidnapped by her abuser, an auxiliary for the Honduran authorities, at a young age and subjected to years of rape. And like Jennifer, who was forced to flee El Salvador after gang members threatened to kill her and her family because they had encouraged youths to join the Evangelical Church instead of the gangs. (I’ve used pseudonyms to protect my clients’ anonymity.)

Our clients sit in our office for hours at a time and share horrific stories of the violence they suffered in their home countries, and of the children, parents, and siblings they were forced to leave behind. Despite everything they have lived through, they bring tremendous warmth and generosity. They also bring their tremendous faith in America, a country that they believe can and should offer them protection.

Trump’s proclamation and new interim regulations fly in the face of that belief. The administration plans to restrict asylum only to those who present themselves at ports of entry; people entering the country via the southern border in any other way would be limited to much more circumscribed forms of relief that would not include reuniting with their family members, obtaining a green card, or a path to citizenship. The administration also plans to enter into an agreement with Mexico to force asylum seekers traveling through that country to claim protection there instead of in the United States.

At first blush, these rules may not seem extreme. But the “ports of entry” restriction ignores the fact that Customs and Border Protection routinely turns away people even after they have asked to apply for asylum. As one woman told the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, “I told [the CBP official] that I wasn’t from here, that I was from Honduras, and that I wanted asylum. He told me that there was no longer asylum for Hondurans … I started to explain why I couldn’t return and what I was fleeing from, but he interrupted me and said that everyone comes with the same story, that he couldn’t help me.”

Continue reading.

Lawyers for Poliquin ask for emergency restraining order to stop ranked-choice voting

Via News Center Maine 

Source: Canva

By: Beth McEvoy

Lawyers representing Rep. Bruce Poliquin and other citizens are asking a judge in Federal Court Wednesday for an emergency temporary restraining order to stop the ranked-choice voting process in Augusta for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District election.

Federal Judge Lance Walker said Wednesday he will not make a decision about the temporary restraining order until Thursday but Sec. of State Matt Dunlap said the vote may be decided sometime Wednesday.

Last week Maine’s 2nd Congressional District election between Rep. Poliquin (R) and Jared Golden (D) failed to produce a candidate with a majority and so has become Maine’s first federal race to be determined by ranked-choice voting.

“No state official should have an interest in rushing ahead, possibly in violation of the Constitution, before the Federal Judge has an opportunity rule. Since the judge told us today that he would issue a ruling tomorrow, I think the prudent course would be for the Secretary of State to give due respect to this federal court and wait for the federal judge’s ruling tomorrow and then decide how best to act,” Lee Goldman, who is representing Poliquin, told reporters following the hearing Wednesday.

“We’re hoping they will count all the votes and run the election is the people decided they wanted to be around,” Peter Brann, the attorney representing Jared Golden. [Peter Brann is a Lecturer on Law for the State Attorney General Clinic at Harvard Law School.]

Poliquin claims he had about 2,000 more votes than Golden on election night. But he did not win a majority of the votes, and under the law passed by voters in 2016, the final result will be determined through ranked-choice voting.

On Tuesday, lawyers for Rep. Poliquin filed a lawsuit in federal court to challenge the vote, saying the whole ranked-choice process violates the U.S. Constitution.

“I won the election fair and square,” Poliquin told reporters ‪Tuesday afternoon‬.

Continue reading

Borrowers Face Hazy Path as Program to Forgive Student Loans Stalls Under Betsy DeVos

Via The New York Times 

Source: iStock

By: Stacy Cowley

The students attended institutions with pragmatic names like the Minnesota School of Business and others whose branding evoked ivy-draped buildings and leafy quads, like Corinthian Colleges. Tens of thousands of them say they are alike in one respect: They were victims of fraud, left with useless degrees and crushing debts.

Now the government program meant to forgive the federal loans of cheated students has all but stopped functioning.

No Education Department employees are devoted full time to investigating borrowers’ complaints, according to three people familiar with the agency’s operations. Instead, the agency’s staff has fought in court to reduce the amount of relief granted to some students and to halt a rule change intended to speed other claims along.

That has left more than 100,000 claims for relief in limbo, according to the Education Department’s most recent data.

“It’s just dream-crushing,” said Meaghan Bauer, who owes $45,000 for her time at the New England Institute of Art. The for-profit school, in Brookline, Mass., closed last year and was sued on fraud charges by the state attorney general in July.

“I can’t afford to go back to school,” Ms. Bauer, 27, said. “Will I ever be able to buy a house? Or get married? I spent so much time working on a useless degree, and it could ruin me financially for the rest of my life.”

The relief program, called borrower defense, became a popular way for students to seek debt forgiveness after several major for-profit schools went bust in recent years. During the Obama administration, the Education Department approved about 30,000 claims, more than half of them in the final two weeks before the new administration took over. All of those borrowers had their loans fully forgiven.

But President Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, who before taking office invested in companies with ties to for-profit colleges and student-loan debt collectors, has derided the program as a “free money” giveaway and vowed to make changes. She has also appointed a former dean of DeVry University — a for-profit school that is the subject of some 10,000 fraud claims by former students — to oversee the unit that runs the program.

As of mid-2018, her department had approved only 16,000 claims, and Education Department officials confirmed that about 15,000 of those were granted partial forgiveness. Tens of thousands more still await a decision.

“There’s nothing in the regulations to stop the secretary from slow-walking the processing of claims,” said Clare McCann, a senior policy adviser at the department during the Obama administration. “I’m positive there will be more litigation from borrowers who have been sitting in the backlog.”

Under President Barack Obama, the Education Department approved claims involving three schools. In nearly two years, the Trump administration has not granted approvals to students from any additional schools, even failed institutions like the Minnesota School of Business, which shut down after a state court ruled that it had misled students and broken state fraud laws.

The department’s attempts to reduce the amount of forgiven debt and block a new forgiveness rule have drawn rebukes from federal judges.

A judge in California found that the department had illegally obtained data from the Social Security Administration on the earnings of former Corinthian Colleges students as it sought to offer some of them only partial loan relief. Last month, the judge granted class-action status to 110,000 former Corinthian students who have applied to have their loans forgiven and may have been granted partial relief.

Also last month, a federal judge in Washington told the department to institute a rule written by the Obama administration requiring a “clear, fair and transparent” process for handling borrowers’ loan discharge requests. The rule also orders the department to automatically forgive the loans of certain students who were enrolled when their schools closed or who withdrew shortly before then, without requiring borrowers to apply for that relief.

But even after that court victory, critics of the Education Department are skeptical that there will be much progress.

“This rule is only as good as the administration’s intent to implement it,” said Toby Merrill, the director of Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending, which has represented dozens of borrowers in lawsuits against schools and the Education Department.

Liz Hill, an agency spokeswoman, said the Education Department would comply with the court’s decision and carry out the new rule “soon.” But she said Ms. DeVos considered the rule “bad policy” and intended to rewrite it.

Many applicants whose claims have lingered might not get much help from the new rule, anyway. The crux of it — establishing a federal standard for determining if a borrower was defrauded — applies only to loans made in 2017 and beyond. Borrowers with earlier loans must prove that their school broke a state law.

Evaluating those claims “is incredibly complex and takes time,” Ms. Hill said.

Borrowers have sought loan forgiveness after attending institutions large and small — from DeVry, which boasts on its site that it has awarded more than 300,000 degrees, to the Marinello Schools of Beauty, a defunct cosmetology chain that the government said had committed student loan fraud. Julian Schmoke, the former DeVry dean who is the department’s enforcement chief, has recused himself from issues related to DeVry, a department spokesman said.

So far, the program has forgiven nearly $535 million in debt, meaning the government absorbs the loss. That’s one reason Ms. DeVos has said the program should be overhauled.

“Students who have been defrauded and suffered harm should absolutely be made whole,” Ms. Hill said. “The department also has a duty to safeguard taxpayer dollars. It would be irresponsible to give 100 percent relief to every claimant without first assessing their claim and understanding whether or not harm was suffered.”

 

The Education Department is the biggest lender to Americans who borrow for college, with more than $1 trillion going to 33 million students. In the fine print of its promissory notes, the agency spells out its terms: Borrowers must repay what they owe even if they drop out, are unhappy with their education or can’t find a job in the field they trained for.

But there’s one escape clause. If borrowers were significantly misled by their school, they can ask the government to forgive their loans. Just as a bank appraises a house before it issues a mortgage, the Education Department is supposed to ensure that the programs it effectively funds are legitimate.

The provision was mostly overlooked for decades. Between 1995 and 2015, the department received only five such claims, according to a report from the agency’s inspector general. But after the Obama administration and a group of state attorneys general cracked down on vocational schools that lured students in with false promises, several large chains collapsed.

Corinthian was the first. In May 2015, it went bankrupt and closed all of its campuses, leaving 350,000 recent students with job training they called subpar and credits that most other schools would not accept. An activist group, the Debt Collective, dusted off the borrower defense rule and mobilized thousands of former Corinthian students to file claims.

Unable to deal individually with so many cases, the Education Department hired a special master and began to develop a system for investigating and adjudicating claims. It also announced that many Corinthian students would qualify to have their debts erased.

“You’d have to be made of stone not to feel for these students,” Arne Duncan, then the education secretary, said in June 2015. “We will make this process as easy as possible for them.”

The complex work of evaluating the Corinthian claims has taken time. By January 2017, the department had approved nearly 32,000.

But when Mr. Obama’s administration ended, about 41,000 complaints still awaited review. The Education Department had granted relief for borrowers who met specific criteria at two other schools, ITT Educational Services and American Career Institute, but it had not delved into thousands of claims involving other institutions.

After Mr. Trump took office, the existing claims sat untouched for nearly a year as tens of thousands of new ones arrived, according to agency documents.

In December, Ms. DeVos’s department approved nearly 13,000 claims, mostly from Corinthian students, under the criteria established by the Obama administration — but to many, she granted only partial relief. Since then, the department has approved only 4,000 more applications.

Those approvals have barely put a dent in claims against ITT, one of the nation’s largest for-profit educational companies before it closed down in September 2016, just before the start of a new school term.

In January 2017, just days before Mr. Trump’s inauguration, the department’s borrower defense unit circulated a 14-page memorecommending that the debts of some ITT students be fully forgiven. The value of the education the school provided them was “likely either negligible or nonexistent,” the investigators concluded.

On that recommendation, the department forgave the debts of 33 ITT students. It has not yet taken action on claims from 13,000 others, according to data sent to members of Congress.

Joseph White is among the ITT students who say they were cheated. He filed a claim with the Education Department three years ago and has heard little since.

Mr. White, 41, of St. Louis, graduated in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in software engineering. But when he landed a position as a web developer, he quickly discovered that he lacked the skills to do his job.

Instead of teaching students to program computers, Mr. White said, instructors had handed out sheets of code and simply had the students retype them. At one final exam, the instructor stood at the front of the classroom and read the answer key aloud, he said.

“My degree,” he said, “was a sham.”

To finance that degree, Mr. White took out loans totaling more than $80,000.

Georgia Voters’ Lawsuit Forces Brian Kemp to Resign Secretary of State Role

Via Protect Democracy

Source: Flickr.com

On November 8, 2018 Georgia gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp resigned his office as Secretary of State in response to a lawsuit brought by Georgia voters.  The move came moments after a hearing was about to commence in Federal Court in Atlanta on a lawsuit seeking to force Kemp’s removal from any role in overseeing a governor’s race that is still too close to call and has not yet been decided.  Kemp claimed the move was to allow him to begin working on a transition to the governor’s role, but the timing made clear that his move was prompted by the lawsuit.

Larry Schwartztol, Counsel for Protect Democracy, the nonpartisan nonprofit that brought the suit on behalf of five Georgia voters said:

“This is a huge victory for democracy and the rule of law. It is a basic constitutional principle that a person may not be a judge in their own case and that’s what Brian Kemp was attempting to be here. It was manifestly unfair and it is a credit to the voters who stepped forward: LaTosha Brown, Candace Fowler, Jennifer Ide, Chalis Montgomery and Katharine Wilkinson whose bold stand in defense of democracy forced Secretary Kemp’s hand.

It is now critical that the votes be counted fairly and any other irregularities caused by Secretary Kemp’s conflicted role and multiple egregiously unethical and unlawful acts in the management of this election be addressed to the degree that Georgia voters can have full confidence in the result.

And let this be a lesson for the future: government officials may not misuse their offices to unfairly tilt the playing field in elections in which they are a candidate.  Doing so violates the Constitution, and today proves that Americans and our court system stand at the ready to stop that from happening should it ever be attempted again.”

The emergency legal papers in this case, Brown v. Kemp, were filed at 5 PM Tuesday on behalf of five Georgia voters: LaTosha Brown, Jennifer N. Ide and Katharine Wilkinson of Fulton County, Candace Fowler of Dekalb County, and Chalis Montgomery of Barrow County. They are represented in the matter by the nonpartisan nonprofit Protect Democracy, former United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia Michael J. Moore, Chuck Byrd, Caroline McGlamry and Wade Tomlinson of Pope McGlamry, and former Department of Justice Voting Rights Section attorney Bryan L. Sells of the Atlanta Law Office of Bryan L. Sells.

More information about the lawsuit is available at protectdemocracy.org/brown-v-kemp/

Protect Democracy is a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to preventing American democracy from declining into a more authoritarian form of government.

Michael J. Moore, Chuck Byrd, Caroline McGlamry and Wade Tomlinson are attorneys at the law firm of Pope McGlamry, which has offices in Atlanta and Columbus, Georgia. Mr. Moore previously served as the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia from 2010 to 2015.  He is also a former member of the Georgia Senate, where he served on the Appropriations, Judiciary, Transportation, and Defense Committees.

Bryan L. Sells is the Principal at The Law Office of Bryan J. Sells in Atlanta, Georgia. Before launching his own practice, Bryan served as Special Litigation Counsel in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice from 2010 to 2015.

For press inquiries, contact  press at protectdemocracy.org

Salma Waheedi Co-Authors Article on Muslim Family Law Reform

Via the Human Rights Program

Salma Waheedi, Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law at the International Human Rights Clinic and Associate Director of the Islamic Legal Studies Program: Law and Social Change, has co-authored an article in the Harvard Journal of Law and Gender with Kristen A. Stilt, Professor of Law and Director of the Islamic Legal Studies Program, and Swathi Gandhavadi Griffin, practicing attorney. The article, “Ambitions of Muslim Family Law Reform,” examines Islamic legal arguments and strategies used to support family law reform.

The co-authors state:

“Family law in Muslim-majority countries has undergone tremendous change over the past century, and this process continues today with both intensity and controversy. In general, this change has been considered “reform,” defined loosely as the amendment of existing family laws that are based on or justified by Islamic legal rules in an effort to improve the rights of women and children. Advocates seeking to reform family law typically make legal arguments grounded in Islamic law, thus explicitly or implicitly conceding the Islamic characterization of family law. This ‘reform from within’ approach has grown in recent years and the legal arguments have become more ambitious as women’s groups have become more involved and vocal.”

The article identifies and examines the landscape of legal arguments that are used and are needed to support change and analyzes the ambitious, possibilities, and limitations of reform in Muslim family law today.

Health Groups Upgrade R.I. Hepatitis C Medicaid Access to ‘A-’

Via the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

Source: Pexels

Originally published by the Providence News Journal on October 29, 2018. Written by Rob Borkowski.

The R.I. Executive Office of Health and Human Services removed all restrictions on curative hepatitis C treatments for its Medicaid patients on July 12, a move that the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable and the Center for Health and Law Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School took note of in upgrading the state’s report card for the Hepatitis C: The State of Medicaid Access project from a “D-” to an “A-”.

Rhode Island’s decision improved access to the treatments for Medicaid patients in both its Fee-for-Service and Managed Care Organization Medicaid programs. Previously, the state restrictions on access to hepatitis C treatments were not in line with federal medical necessity requirements for Medicaid.

But the state worked in conjunction with the Center for Health and Law Policy Innovation, the Rhode Island Center for Justice and other community partners to make the policy change.

“We commend Rhode Island for expanding access to hepatitis C medications for all Medicaid beneficiaries, ensuring that more Rhode Islanders can receive curative treatments. CHLPI encourages other states to follow in Rhode Island’s footsteps and remove their discriminatory restrictions,” said Robert Greenwald, clinical professor of law at Harvard Law School and the director of CHLPI.

Rhode Island’s Fee-For-Service program previously required hepatitis C patients to demonstrate severe liver damage (a fibrosis score of F3 or greater), undergo screening and concurrent alcohol and substance use counseling for beneficiaries actively using, and obtain a prescription from a specialist that is approved by the R.I. Executive Office of Health and Human Services. With these restrictions in place, very few patients diagnosed with hepatitis C had access to treatment. Each year, it is estimated that only 250 Rhode Islanders who are Medicaid beneficiaries receive access to curative hepatitis C medications.

“After years of strong advocacy efforts in Rhode Island, all Medicaid patients diagnosed with hepatitis C can now receive access to treatment without restrictions. We continue to encourage all Medicaid patients at risk to undergo screening and learn about available treatment options,” said Tina Broder, interim executive director of the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable.

National Institutes of Health will study “Food is Medicine”

Via the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

Source: Pexels

Written by Hanh Nguyen, Whole Person Care Project Assistant. 

When the Committee on Appropriations recently passed H.R. 6557, The Department of Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act for 2019, they also submitted a report accompanying the bill that encouraged the Office of Director of the NIH to work with Institutions and Centers, including NIDDKNHLBINIA, and NICHD, to report on research that has been conducted on Food is Medicine related topics. This may include “medically tailored meals, meal nutrition therapy, produce prescription programs, the role of proper nutrition in aging, and the role of proper nutrition in reproductive health”.

The report also draws attention to the access challenges and out-of-pocket costs of prescribed medical diets. The Committee encouraged the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services to work proactively with stakeholder communities to identify and address improper barriers to nutritious food access.

CHLPI is excited to see the language of Food is Medicine (FIM) used among policymakers. We are hopeful that a focus on nutrition research will improve our health care delivery system.

There is a growing body of research that demonstrates the impressive results of FIM interventions in improving health outcomes, increasing patient satisfaction in health care, and reducing health costs. In a recent congressional briefing, it was reported that patients who received home-delivered medically tailored meals showed a 16% net reduction in monthly healthcare spendings. Likewise, a new study from Project Angel Heart, a non-profit food and nutrition program serving individuals living with life-threatening illnesses in Colorado, reported that the provision of medically tailored meals resulted in a 13% drop in hospital admissions and 24% overall cost reduction for patients with diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and congestive heart failure.

Despite such results, there is still not a federal funding stream dedicated to medically tailored food and nutrition within healthcare, leaving those who chronically ill, too sick to shop and cook for themselves, or too poor to afford nutritious food at risk for life-threatening conditions that are preventable with proper nutrition.

We believe that a critical analysis of existing FIM research will set the stage for future innovative policies that will increase access to medically tailored meals. Check out our FIM State Plan to learn more about how CHLPI is working to increase access to FIM interventions in the Commonwealth!

Should We Just Ban “Best By” Labels on Food?

Via the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation 

Source: Flickr.com 

Originally published by Modern Farmer on October 12, 2018. Written by 

Food labels, as we’ve written about before, are awful: they can be misleading, outright lies, not include enough information, or, in the case of one particular label, encourage bad habits.

Tesco, one of the UK’s biggest supermarket chains, announced this week that it will remove “best by” date labels from 116 fruit and vegetable items. The move builds on a smaller reduction in the label earlier this year. So why are those labels bad?

The “best by” label, along with its siblings “best before” and “best if used by,” are not federally regulated in any way; they are not only not required, but there aren’t even any rules about how to determine which product gets which date. (It’s sometimes done by anecdotal evidence, sometimes by lab tests, more often by just following other labels and assuming that, say, the best time to drink milk is earlier than two weeks after it was processed.)

But over the past few years, resistance to the “best by” label has grown. A 2016 survey from the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic found that 84 percent of respondents occasionally throw away food that’s past its labeled date, and a third of respondents “usually” or “always” do. This is a significant issue because that food isn’t actually bad; the “best by” date is not the same as a spoilage date. The “best by” label is, unexpectedly, a major contributor to food waste, and food waste is so rampant in the US that an estimated 40 percent of the entire country’s food never makes it to the plate.

Tesco’s own research indicated that 69 percent of respondents supported removing the “best by” label, with more than half stating that they believed it would reduce food waste. This isn’t a trick to get you to buy spoiled food; you can tell if a tomato is rotten, or about to be rotten, in a way that’s much more precise than a stamped generic label. It’s a way to discourage people from walking past food that’s perfectly good.

Corruption-fighting AG? Easy to say, harder to do.

Via Crain’s Chicago Business

Source: Flickr.com

By: Tim Jones

Come election time, it’s popular for Illinois Republicans and Democrats, when political circumstances suit them, to clamor for the state’s top lawyer to investigate corruption—almost always, to no avail.

But a few weeks ago, Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan began investigating the Rauner administration over how it handled a spate of Legionnaires’ Disease-related deaths at the state home for veterans in Quincy.

And the GOP cried foul.

“Clearly partisan,” charged Travis Sterling, executive director of the Illinois Republican Party.

Even though 14 people have died, and WBEZ news reports show the Rauner administration waited nearly a week to notify the public about the initial outbreak, the Quincy case vividly illustrates why laws in Illinois and almost all other states make it very difficult for elected attorneys general to lead the very anti-corruption crusades partisans often call for.

What one party may hail as a righteous quest for justice, the other likely will condemn as a politically tainted abuse of power.

Yet candidates often cannot resist taking up the cudgel of anti-corruption, sometimes identifying their targets by name.

“If I say, ‘Elect me and I’ll go after Donald Trump or Speaker (Mike) Madigan or Jared Kushner,’ anyone who says that is absolutely wrong,” said James Tierney, former attorney general of Maine and now a lecturer at Harvard Law School. “That is the opposite of what our criminal justice system is supposed to be about.”

Read the full article here.

Regulatory Hackers Aren’t Fixing Society. They’re Getting Rich

Via Wired.com 

Source: Pixabay

By: Susan Crawford

Recently I was invited to join a panel to discuss Regulatory Hacking: A Playbook for Startups, a new book by venture capitalist Evan Burfield. The book is sort of a guide for new companies looking for a win-win—doing good by doing well—in highly regulated sectors like health and education. It argues that startups have the opportunity to make trillions of dollars solving global challenges that, in the past, would have been addressed by governments or nonprofits.

Burfield sat at the center of our semicircle of five speakers, all female save for him. He’s a large-framed, confidence-radiating man with a light English accent—an earlier generation might have called him “clubbable.” His message was one of intelligent cooperation by startups with government. He urged the small crowd of students to “map power dynamics” when they launch their businesses. The book’s introduction says it “provides a history of Elon Musk as the ultimate regulatory hacker,” but Musk’s name didn’t come up—maybe because the Musk news of late hasn’t been that adulatory.

The panel discussion took place on sunny afternoon, in a high-floor classroom that looked east over the towers of upper Manhattan. Burfield spoke easily and at length, and as he did I watched a large private helicopter loop lazily toward its landing pad by the East River.

Once the event petered to a close, he ran off to catch a plane. He’s a busy, successful person, a family man as well, with a daughter named Endeavour. (She makes an appearance in the first sentence of the book, asking Alexa to play a song for her.)

Two other speakers on that panel were women with experience as New York City employees—one current, one former— who talked about weaving startups into the workings of government in various ways. They too were confident and competent, as was the woman entrepreneur who, with me, rounded out the panel. We were all appropriately deferential to Burfield; it was his book, after all. (The New York Times, in its review of Regulatory Hacking, called it “chock-full of checklists, matrices, diagrams and jargon all of uneven usefulness.”)

But the talk and the helicopter darkened my mood. It’s tough to find moments of clarity in the calamitous, disorienting era we’re in, but for me that afternoon stands out. Something was off.

By temperament and by training, I am optimistic most of the time. In that room, though, I sensed the assumptions of our age operating in high, silent gear: Business is the most important agent of change in society; government exists to “cooperate” and is mostly incapable and toothless (while simultaneously, if ineptly, threatening); nothing is going to be done about the harrowing, multiple, structural unfairnesses of our time; women who want to survive and be invited to future panel discussions need to be appropriately deferential; and our destiny as a society is being charted by people who never use public transportation. Or fly commercial.

I did speak up, politely, that afternoon. I said many things are profoundly wrong with the way we live in America, and that what we really need to do is make sure government has the capacity and resources to ensure—using technology as a tool, but mostly through sound policy—that everyone with a belly button can lead a thriving life. I urged the students in the audience to spend some time working in government themselves, so that they could see how many people at City Hall are doing their best against impossible odds. I smiled as I spoke; I don’t like sounding like a crank. But it was both saddening and alarming.

Luckily, someone seemingly at the very heart of the Aspen-Davos-Harvard win-win consensus has emerged with a terrific book that takes up many of these themes: Anand Giridharadas, with Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World. Giridharadas’ work gives me hope that we can start marking a cut in the continuous history we inhabit. We may be launching a new historical narrative.

Giridharadas is an insider. He’s been on the TED stage, at the Aspen Ideas Festival, at the Harvard Kennedy School. (Although I teach at Harvard, I’ve never met him.) And he, like me, is horrified by the blinkered, superficial, and self-serving rhetoric of the privileged class as it looks to avoid personal pain in a thoroughly unfair world.

Giridharadas crisply categorizes the breathless rhetoric of individual startuppy idealism that rolls out from the stages of conferences on the social enterprise circuit. The language routinely used by startup leaders claiming to improve people’s lives—”we will change the world!”—masks a profound desire to avoid confrontation with the unfair and unequal status quo experienced by many Americans. The way things are, after all, is serving the interests of the well-born and well-connected.

One jarring anecdote in Winners Take All has a budgeting startup called Even doing some user-centered-design-ish interviewing of a gig-economy worker, named Heather Jacobs. Jacobs is barely making it, panicked by a punishing commute, staggering student debt, and insecure work hours. The interviewer wants to make sure that Even will meet Jacob’s needs. Could a subscription app help smooth Heather’s jagged paychecks, ensuring by automatic saving of excess incoming cash that she had enough money each month to cover her bills?

“If you asked the question, ‘What is the best way to help Heather Jacobs?’ the honest answer probably wouldn’t be to charge her $260 a year to smooth her income,” Giridharadas writes. He points out that you might, instead, try to fix the systems that are keeping Heather Jacobs poor—you would want to make sure that transit, affordable housing, and student loan assistance were part of the fabric of American life. But then you wouldn’t have much of a startup.

Giridharadas’ message is that the world could be arranged in different ways. But no one in the well-connected world he documents is interested in that restructuring. The people Giridharadas writes about are looking to make a pile of money from doing good, assisted by thought leaders, most foundations, and a guileless, money-oriented public. They face little foundational, structural criticism; no one on the conference circuit wants to be a harsh critic or a genuine public intellectual. Who wants to attack the people who have flown you in to speak?

Most of the time, we are ants crawling across a vast tablecloth, unaware of our context or our destiny. But right now things are off enough that we might want to raise our heads to look around. Hacking is not going to cut it.

Copyright Law Just Got Better for Video Game History

Via Motherboard.com

Source: Pexels

By: Ian Birnbaum and Matthew Gault

A new ruling from the Librarian of Congress is good news for video game preservation. In an 85-page ruling that covered everything from electronic aircraft controls to farm equipment diagnostic software, the Librarian of Congress carved out fair use exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for video games and software in general. These exemptions will make it easier for archivists to save historic video games and for museums to share that cultural history with the public.

“The Acting Register found that the record supported granting an expansion in the relatively discrete circumstances where a preservation institution legally possesses a copy of a video game’s server code and the game’s local code,” the Librarian of Congress said. “In such circumstances, the preservation activities described by proponents are likely to be fair uses.”

These rules are definitely good news for single-player games. “The big change for single-player games happened during the last DMCA review process in 2015, when the Copyright Office decided that museums and archives could break the online authentication for single-player titles that were just phoning home to a server for copy protection reasons,” Phil Salvador—a Washington, DC-area librarian and archivist who runs The Obscuritory, a site that focuses on discussing and preserving obscure, old games—told Motherboard. That 2015 ruling was due to expire this year, but thanks to pressure from activists it was renewed today instead.

“These rules are a big win,” Kendra Albert, a Clinical Instructional Fellow at the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard Law School, told Motherboard. Albert represented the Software Preservation Network, which was one of the parties arguing for the change at the Copyright Office. “The 2015 rules cracked the door open for many things, but the exemptions that were granted here are potentially much, much broader.”

 

Read the full article here.

HLS Named One of the Top Music Law Schools in 2018

Via Billboard.com 

Recording Artists Project (RAP) Board Members, left to right:  Graham Duff, Jenna El-Fakih, Rebecca Rechtszaid, Caley Petrucci, Danielle Walling, and Kike Aluko.

Billboard spotlights Harvard Law School’s entertainment and media law courses and the Recording Artist Project in a line up of 12 institutions who have produced “many of the music industry’s most accomplished lawyers.”

Excerpt:

This year’s Harvard Law curriculum includes a class covering entertainment and media law, a course on music and digital media, and an entertainment law clinic to complement its many intellectual-property and contracts-focused classes. Students can also moonlight at the legal services clinic, Recording Artists Project, where they gain hands-on experience working with local musicians. The clinic celebrates its 20th year in October with a gala keynoted by entertainment lawyer and alumnus Donald Passman. This past year, as part of Harvard Law’s bicentennial celebration, the school held a Harvard Law School in the Arts event, with alumnus Clive Davis serving as honorary chairman. He also spoke to students about the 2017 documentary Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives.

Alumnus: Spotify general counsel/vp business and legal affairs Horacio Gutierrez

Read the full article here.

Delayed Obama-Era Rule on Student Debt Relief Is to Take Effect

Via The New York Times 

 

Source: Flickr.com

By: Stacy Cowley

A long-delayed federal rule intended to protect student loan borrowers who were defrauded by their schools went into effect on Tuesday, after a judge rejected an industry challenge and the Education Department ended efforts to stall it any longer.

The new rule, finalized in the last few months of President Barack Obama’s administration, is intended to strengthen a system called borrower defense that allows forgiveness of federal student loans for borrowers who were cheated by schools that lied about their job placement rates or otherwise broke state consumer protection laws.

The new rule could expedite the claims of more than 100,000 borrowers, many of whom attended for-profit schools, including ITT and Corinthian, that went out of business in recent years.

“We’re really gratified,” said Eileen Connor, the director of litigation at Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending, which represented several student borrowers who challenged the department’s delay. “These regulations have a lot of critical protections in them for student borrowers and taxpayers.”

The new rule requires the Education Department to create a “clear, fair, and transparent” process for handling borrowers’ loan discharge requests, many of which have sat for years in the department’s backlog. It also orders the department to automatically forgive the loans of some students at schools that closed, without requiring borrowers to apply for that relief.

The rule was supposed to take effect in July 2017. Shortly before that deadline, the Education secretary, Betsy DeVos, suspended the rule and announced plans to rewrite it. But federal agencies must follow a specific process for adopting or changing rules, and Judge Randolph D. Moss, a federal judge in Washington, ruled last month that the Education Department had failed to meet that standard. The department’s decision to delay the rule was “arbitrary and capricious,” he wrote.

Judge Moss ordered the rule to take effect but suspended his ruling until he could hear arguments in a lawsuit brought by the California Association of Private Postsecondary Schools, an industry group whose members include for-profit colleges.

On Tuesday, Judge Moss rejected the group’s request for an injunction. That removed the last obstacle blocking the rule and put it into immediate effect.

A spokeswoman for the California trade group declined to comment on Judge Moss’s ruling.

Liz Hill, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said that Ms. DeVos “respects the role of the court and accepts the court’s decision.” However, Ms. DeVos still hopes to rewrite the rule.

“The secretary continues to believe the rule promulgated by the previous administration is bad policy, and the department will continue the work of finalizing a rule that protects both borrowers and taxpayers,” Ms. Hill said.

The soonest any new rule written by Ms. DeVos’s department could take effect is July 2020, which leaves the Obama-era rule in place until then. Ms. Hill said the department would provide more information “soon” on how it would be carried out.

Of the 166,000 forgiveness claims that had been received as of June 30, nearly 106,000 were still pending, according to department data. The department rejected 9,000 applications and approved almost 48,000, discharging $535 million in student loan debt. Taxpayers absorb that loss.

The new rule tries to cushion the blow to taxpayers by requiring schools that are at risk of generating fraud claims to provide financial collateral. That part of the rule has been fiercely opposed by industry groups.

Legal fights about the rule’s nuances are likely to continue. In his ruling on Tuesday, Judge Moss wrote that his decision was “not the first (and presumably not the last) chapter” in the fight.

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