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Jimmy Margulies | Rising health insurance costs / CagleCartoons.com

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Passenger Trains: Our Hope for a More Sustainable Future

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  • President Obama's proposal to spend $50 billion on transportation infrastructure—including 4,000 miles of rail lines—couldn't be a better expenditure of our federal tax dollars.
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  • American-made streetcars: Portland company rebuilds lost industry
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Olga Bonfiglio, Common Dreams

President Obama's proposal to spend $50 billion on transportation infrastructure—including 4,000 miles of rail lines—couldn't be a better expenditure of our federal tax dollars.

After spending two days on the Empire Builder, the long-haul Amtrak line from Chicago to Seattle/Portland, I quickly realized that our investment in trains should be readily and heartily embraced.  And, if more Americans were to take such trips, I’m sure they, too, would choose trains as an alternative mode of travel.

Amtrak staff was courteous and responsive to passengers, a bit quirky as train people can be, but absolutely delightful while we all traveled the miles and hours together across the country. Riding the train, especially on an overnight, was romantic and adventurous and we kept to our schedule despite the numerous times we had to yield to freight trains.

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American-made streetcars: Portland company rebuilds lost industry, Jacob Wheeler, People's World

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  • More than 65 U.S. cities are currently looking into implementing streetcars. Portland, though, is leading the way in public transportation.
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  • Minneapolis City Council keeps streetcars on track
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5 key health reforms you need to know

Highlights
•    Changes that do away with limits on lifetime caps can prevent bankruptcy.
•    There are welcome reform changes for kids with pre-existing conditions.
•    Some price increases are likely: Free preventive care can increase costs.

Constance Gustke, Bankrate.com

The first wave of several health care reform changes is slated to begin Sept. 23, and that's good news for some consumers. Part of the provisions signed into law by President Barack Obama in March offer key relief for young adults, people with serious illnesses and others. For example, kids can't be excluded for pre-existing conditions and there are no lifetime caps for people who've maxed out their coverage.

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"Some substantial things are included," says Carrie McLean, a consumer specialist at eHealthInsurance.com.

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"Insurance companies are scrambling to put them into effect."

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Global Horizons Indicted for Human Trafficking

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  • Mordechai Orian, president of Global Horizons, a Los Angeles-based labor recruiter, was indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for "engaging in a conspiracy to commit forced labor and document servitude" of some 400 Thai citizens who were brought to work on farms in the U.S.
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  • Largest Case in US History
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Pratap Chatterjee, Corporate Watch

In what federal officials described as the largest human-trafficking case ever brought by the government, Mordechai Orian, president and chief operating officer of Global Horizons, was indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for "engaging in a conspiracy to commit forced labor and document servitude."

The alleged victims of the Los Angeles-based labor recruiter are some 400 Thai citizens who were brought to work on farms in the U.S. between May 2004 through September 2005. They were hired under H-2A visas which allow farm workers into the country for seasonal work.


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In late 2006, after CorpWatch published an article and a cartoon about the recruitment and abuse of Thai farm workers, Orian sued the non-profit. Orian stated that our reporter, Kari Lydersen was "part of (a) campaign against the H-2A program and [was trying] to protect illegal immigrant and the legal groups who stand to profit from the representation of illegal aliens." CorpWatch refused to retract the article or the cartoon but the two parties came to an out-of-court settlement in April 2007 to correct a few disputed facts in the story. No money was paid by either side.

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Foreclosure Mills: America's Newest Housing Nightmare

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  • Borrowers are getting screwed again as bailed-out banks send their foreclosure dirty work to con artists with a history of breaking the law.
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  • The Forgotten Foreclosure Crisis
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Andy Kroll, Mother Jones/Axis of Logic

David Stern, multi-millionaire lawyer who
 exploits people who are losing their homes.

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Late one night in February 2009, Ariane Ice sat poring over records on the website of Florida's Palm Beach County. She'd been at it for weeks, forsaking sleep to sift through thousands of legal documents. She and her husband, Tom, an attorney, ran a boutique foreclosure defense firm called Ice Legal. (Slogan: "Your home is your castle. Defend it.") Now they were up against one of Florida's biggest foreclosure law firms: Founded by multimillionaire attorney David J. Stern, it controlled one-fifth of the state's booming market in foreclosure-related services. Ice had a strong hunch that Stern's operation was up to something, and that night she found her smoking gun.

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It involved something called an "assignment of mortgage," the document that certifies who owns the property and is thus entitled to foreclose on it. Especially these days, the assignment is key evidence in a foreclosure case: With so many loans having been bought, sold, securitized, and traded, establishing who owns the mortgage is hardly a trivial matter. It frequently requires months of sleuthing in order to untangle the web of banks, brokers, and investors, among others. By law, a firm must execute (complete, sign, and notarize) an assignment before attempting to seize somebody's home.

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The Forgotten Foreclosure Crisis, Think Progress

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  • Without more intervention, the housing market will continue its 'slow motion' adjustment that will continue to inhibit economic growth and drag down consumer spending.
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  • Foreclosures Rise with Unemployment
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