• Deadly politics
    April 30,2014
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    An out-of-control Egyptian government has now sentenced more than 680 people to death in a mass trial that lasted a few minutes and is part of an organized effort not just to crush its political opponents but to eliminate them. Last month, a court delivered a similar sentence on 529 other Islamists. The sentences further demonstrate that the military-led government’s ruthless disregard for the law and its contrary political views go far beyond anything that former President Mohammed Morsi was accused of doing when he was deposed by the army in July.

    And what did the Obama administration have to say about this travesty, which will further fuel hostility and division in one of the Arab world’s most important countries? “The United States is deeply troubled,” the office of the press secretary said in a shockingly weak statement.

    The death sentences are subject to appeal, but that is little solace to the defendants who have been accused and sentenced with nothing resembling justice or even minimal due process. In Monday’s ruling, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Badie, was among those convicted even though he repeatedly emphasized nonviolence in his public remarks in the period leading up the anti-Islamist crackdown that began with Morsi’s overthrow and the backlash against it.

    The sentences were imposed for inciting violence and disturbances in which one police officer was allegedly killed. But none of those sentenced was charged with participating in murder. They were given the death sentence for lesser crimes.

    The courts in Egypt were once regarded as relatively liberal within the country’s authoritarian system, but it is clear the judges have become a government tool. There has been no serious attempt to deliver justice for the thousands of Islamists and other anti-government critics who are now languishing in jails or the estimated 1,000 who were killed by security forces during last year’s protests by supporters of Morsi and the Brotherhood.

    Like the United States, Israel has an interest in a stable Egypt that can honor the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty and defeat militants in Sinai. But an Egyptian government that persecutes its political opponents and denies them justice and any political role in society will produce only instability and violence.

    — The New York Times

    A new loan low

    College students who borrow from private lenders often assume that private and federal student loans work the same way. The two could not be more different.

    Federal loans, for example, have low, fixed rates and broad consumer protections that permit people who run into trouble to make partial payments or to defer them altogether until they recover financially.

    Private student loans from banks and other lenders typically come with variable interest rates, which means that borrowers who misunderstand the conditions of the loan can be shocked to find what they owe in the end. In addition, private loans offer limited consumer protections, leaving borrowers who get into trouble with few options other than default.

    These drawbacks are bad enough, but the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau now finds other problems. Borrowers have been forced into default without warning. Borrowers with perfect credit histories can suddenly be required to pay the full amount of the loan if someone who co-signed on the loan dies. Some have received the bad news, accompanied by threats of legal action, even as they mourn the death of a parent or grandparent.

    These unfair contracts date from the fiscal crisis, when investors were burned by securities backed by sloppily drawn student loans to borrowers who had not been properly vetted. The upshot was that more lenders began requiring co-signers. That seemed reasonable. But the agency report shows that lenders are springing surprises not only on borrowers but on co-signers, keeping them tied to loans long after borrowers have proved their creditworthiness.

    Federal regulators clearly have a lot to do to address what amounts to a student loan crisis. (Total student indebtedness is now about $1.2 trillion.) They can begin by preventing contracts that unfairly burden borrowers in the private market, who owe $150 billion.

    — The New York Times
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