Thursday, April 16, 2015

What’s Going On Around The World Today?


The U.S. Department of Education is developing a formal process to forgive student loans for students misled by law-breaking schools, BuzzFeed News’ Molly Hensley-Clancy reports. The statement was in a press release announcing a $30 million fine against for-profit Corinthian Colleges for defrauding students by lying about job placement rates. The release said the department is “working on a process to help federal student loan borrowers submit a defense to repayment of their federal student loans.” The department previously remained largely silent about what debt forgiveness options were available for students who were deceived into taking out loans by predatory for-profit colleges.

And a little extra. The student loan problem could be even worse than expected — but it’s not necessarily getting worse, according to a recently published essay by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The number of student loan borrowers who are more than 30 days behind on repayments is higher when comparing borrowers who are required to make payments versus those who, for various reasons including post-grad grace periods, are not. The number of borrowers who are behind on repayments but not required to make payments is 17%. That number rises to 31% if you narrow it down to those who are required to make payments. The good news is that the “share of student loan borrowers whose loans are not in repayment has decreased from 53% to 45%” over the past decade, the researchers said.

Fast food workers and supporters staged a national day of protest, which organizers are calling the largest protest of underpaid workers ever. The campaign, which called for higher minimum wages across the U.S. and for union rights, included events in 200 cities around the world. BuzzFeed News’ Mariah Summers reported from the center of the Fight for 15 movement in New York City. College students, adjunct professors, home care and child care workers, Walmart employees, #BlackLivesMatter activists, as well as airport services workers joined fast food workers, Summers writes.

Mariah Summers / BuzzFeed

A little bit of background.

  • Fight for 15 started about two and a half years ago when 200 NYC fast food workers left their posts, demanding at least $15 per hour and the right to organize through labor unions. It’s since grown rapidly and has “become something of a calling card for a revitalized form of worker organizing,” Summers writes.

  • In recent months, Seattle and San Francisco have raised their minimum wages to $15 per hour. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

  • Earlier this month, McDonald’s announced it would raise minimum employee wages $1 an hour over the legal local minimum wages — but only for company-owned restaurants, which make up about 10% of its total outlets. Some workers protested, calling the decision cynical and inadequate, according to the Boston Globe .


Five people have been killed and hundreds have fled their homes in some of South Africa’s worst xenophobic violence in years. The mobs targeting immigrants are motivated by a belief that the growing community is taking up all available jobs. Most of the violence took place in and around Durban, a port city on the country’s eastern coast. South African police have arrested around 34 people connected to the violence, and police presence has been increased in the country. South African President Jacob Zuma has condemned the violence and responded by assigning several cabinet ministers to work on reducing the tensions.

What’s next? Several media outlets, including Newsweek , have called the violence reminiscent of the 2008 attacks in Johannesburg that killed more than 60 people — that incident, too, was motivated by anti-immigrant sentiment. Fearing for their safety, more than 1,000 residents have been forced out of their homes by the violence are now living in transit camps set up by non-profit groups.

A child from Mozambique in a camp in the city of Chatsworth, south of Durban, for immigrants who have fled violence.

Rogan Ward / Reuters


Former NFL player Aaron Hernandez was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentence to life in prison without parole. Family loyalties were tested, and held, during Hernandez’s murder trial. BuzzFeed News’ Lindsay Adler reported on how it all played out in the courtroom after he was declared guilty.

Congress is grappling with online abuse after GamerGate, the sustained campaign of attacks targeting women on the internet that drew significant attention last year. At a Congressional briefing on cyberstalking and online threats, advocates, including Rep. Katherine Clark, stressed the need for heightened enforcement. “The problem itself is often dismissed as an internet problem, something that only exists in a virtual world,” Clark said at the briefing. “But that, we know, is not the case.”

Google is the new Microsoft. Google’s legal trouble with the European Union is part of a larger trend that sees the company being perceived more as a bully in the public eye, BuzzFeed News’ William Alden writes. The complaint brings back memories of Microsoft in 1998, when it fought the European Commission over its Windows operating system. Over the years, Google has drawn hostility for aggressive attempts to replicate the products of competitors and has abandoned relationships with companies that once considered it an ally.

20th Century Fox

Abnormal heat, rising population, and high water demand from large amounts of farmland are driving California’s severe drought. The state’s predicament is essentially “a gross mismatch between supply and demand,” according to climate scientist Peter Gleick. Gleick also asserted that California needs to have a stronger sense of urgency when it comes to managing water use, and that the basics of how the state grows its crops needs to be fundamentally changed.

The countries of sub-Saharan Africa are the world’s leaders in banking using mobile devices, according to a new poll by the World Bank and Gallup. Mobile banking in these countries is aided by a steady increase in cell phone ownership in Africa over the past several years. The World Bank believes mobile banking has a huge potential to balance gender disparities in Africa — in some of the countries surveyed, there was no gap between genders when it comes to having a mobile money account, and women had more control over their finances.

Noor Khamis / Reuters

Etsy, the online shopping site best known for artisanal goods, is going public on the stock market today. This public listing is a significant achievement for the New York tech industry, which has long been overshadowed by its splashier counterpart in Silicon Valley. It is also the second time an American public stock exchange welcomes a B Corporation, a type of business entity recognized as prioritizing social and environmental issues. The first was Colorado-based Rally Software, according to Entrepreneur .

Two photo series worth your time:

  • Today is the one-year anniversary of South Korea’s Sewol ferry disaster that killed 304 people, most of whom were high school students (BuzzFeed News)

  • Students in Sierra Leone started school for the first time in a year after the Ebola crisis started (Mashable)

Quick things to know:

  • A Florida mailman landed a tiny aircraft — a gyrocopter — on the U.S. Capitol lawn, which is in protected airspace, to deliver letters to members of Congress and draw attention to campaign finance reform (Tampa Bay Times)

  • The campaign to put a woman on the $20 bill is heading to the Senate (The Washington Post)

  • Global revenue from digital music sales has overtaken physical CD sales for the first time (The Verge)

  • Netflix now has one subscriber for every three households in America (BuzzFeed News)… so we’ll just leave this here: 17 Tips Every Netflix User Needs To Know

  • Supermodel Gisele Bündchen retired after 20 years to devote more time to her family (BuzzFeed News)


British clothing brand Matalan has a new ad campaign featuring LGBT families. The campaign, called “Made for Modern Families,” is meant to reflect the diverse range of households in Britain today. “We just want the best for our amazing kids and thought it’s about time to actually be proud of who we are and try and challenge some of the stereotypes that people have,” one of the parents photographed for the campaign told BuzzFeed. “I feel we’re quite good role models.”

Matalan / Tom Hingston

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