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If you have a cable TV set-top-box, you need to read this

I was excited to hear about Comcast’s new app that will let you watch TV without a set-top box through a Roku. But then I heard they’re still planning to charge customers a monthly fee. What gives? Thanks, Dear POed, Here’s what’s happening. The Roku app will let you watch all the Comcast channels available through your set-top box on a TV that’s not connected to a big, ugly cable box. Not only are those set-top boxes unsightly and bulky but they’re also expensive. Comcast charges a $9.95 rental fee for each additional box in your home. (The first box is included with the price of your monthly service.) The Federal Communications Commission estimates this costs customers on average more than $230 a year. Comcast The idea of being able to connect multiple TVs, like the TV you might have in your bedroom or the one in your basement, to your cable TV service without paying an additional $10 a month per box sounds like a sweet deal, right? But not so fast. A Comcast spokesperson confirmed that the company will be charging customers an “access fee” of $7.45 for each TV using the Roku app. That’s the same price Comcast charges customers who use a TiVo or other CableCard device instead of renting a set-top box from Comcast. FCC rules require Comcast and other cable operators to give subscribers a discount if they use a Cablecard device instead of renting a set-top box, which is why the price is discounted for Comcast customers. What makes this fee striking is that it’s not designed to pay for any particular... read more

The Great Unwinding of Public Education: Detroit and DeVos

The Great Unwinding of Public Education: Detroit and DeVos   Friday, December 23, 2016 By Joseph Natoli, Truthout |   Weeds and grass overtake the run-down Campbell Elementary School, one of the many closed schools in Detroit, July 19, 2013. Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for secretary of education, argued that the Detroit’s public schools should simply be shut down and the system turned over to charters. (Photo: Nathan Weber / The New York Times) Privatization of all things public has slammed Detroit as gentrifying investors seek to put price tags on what was previously public domain. In predatory fashion, privatizers are targeting the city’s struggling students as a new frontier for profit. How weak and vulnerable is public education in Detroit? The Nation’s Report Card, published by an independent federal commission, named Detroit Public Schools the country’s “lowest-performing urban school district” in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015. In 2011, a Republican state legislature and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder repealed a statewide cap on the number of Detroit charter schools. The floodgates were opened and privatizing predators rolled in. Bankruptcy following the collapse of the jobs that fueled the “Motor City” has exposed Detroit to the dynamics described by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine. A crisis, either arranged or accidental, precipitates a rush to recuperation. Lobbyists of wealthy investors petition a government that wealthy investors have put in place. A much-quoted “checks and balances” security shield for democratic governance is thus so easily disarmed. The more startling, dire and urgent the crisis, the greater the rush to a “saving” privatization. Low reading and math scores, shared by both charter and... read more

Add this to Snyder’s list of disasters

Inside Michigan’s faulty unemployment system that hit thousands with fraud yan Felton in Detroit @ryanfelton13 Friday 12 February 2016 08.44 EST   Millions of dollars in penalties were issued after unemployment insurance agency implemented automated service in 2013 to detect fraud. The system has since been discontinued, but the lawsuits and disgruntled residents remain   The automated unemployment insurance fraud detection system that has cost thousands of innocent people millions in penalties began in 2013 under Michigan governor Rick Snyder. Photograph: Carlos Osorio/ In the weeks before Christmas 2014, Kevin Grifka received a letter from the state of Michigan, claiming he fraudulently collected $12,000 in unemployment benefits. Grifka, an electrician who lives in metro Detroit, had his entire federal income tax refund garnished by the Michigan unemployment insurance agency (UIA). In the midst of the holiday season, he was faced with repaying a five-figure sum. “To see your wife cry at night is not cool,” Grifka said last year. “The kids, I never told them, they’re too young to even realize, but you look at four months, five months almost, on the phone dealing with people trying to get basically nowhere, and it’s very disturbing.” But Grifka hadn’t actually committed insurance fraud. He was one of thousands of people, many out of work, wrongly charged by an automated unemployment insurance fraud detection system that began in 2013 under Michigan governor Rick Snyder. Officials have at least partially conceded the program had problems: last month, the state revealed in a court filing that it quietly scaled back the $47m program, in the wake of intense media scrutiny. Now, all determinations are... read more
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