Trans-Pacific Partnership steeped in controversy

Nearly half of the world’s GDP teeters on the passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 622-page document between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries. Opponents consider it “the dirtiest trade deal you’ve never heard of” due to the secrecy surrounding the negotiations. The 11 other countries included in the deal include Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Vietnam.

Negotiations that started in 2010 were kept fully secret until a 2013 Wikileaks release of the document’s chapter on Intellectual Property Rights. The leak exposed what was to come in terms of copyrighting, digital rights management (DRM) and torrenting—the downloading and sharing of large files. Copyright infringement would be met with “criminal procedures and penalties… of sufficient severity to provide a deterrent” for further offenses.

The US Electronics Frontiers Foundation commented on TPP, saying,“We have to do everything we can to stop this agreement from getting signed, ratified, and put into force.”

The agreement was completed in October 2015, but each of the 12 countries needs to pass the contract in their respective countries. On the Office of the United States Trade Representative’s website, the TPP is advertised as “leveling the playing field for American workers and American businesses.”

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) writes the rules for global trade—rules that will help increase Made-in-America exports, grow the American economy, support well-paying American jobs, and strengthen the American middle class,” the website writes.

Article via CNET, February 6, 2016

Photo: Eimskip Ship via Corey Templeton [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Can ‘borrower defense’ help forgive student debt?

A once obscure federal law is being cited by more than 7,500 borrowers who applied to have their debt erased because many schools apparently used illegal recruiting tactics.

Wall Street Journal reported that if schools violate a state law regarding the recruiting process, federal law states that students may receive forgiveness of debt from the government’s Direct Loan program. One example of a violation would be if the school lied about how many of its graduates landed jobs.

Unfortunately, there are some downsides. The law does not specifically state what is needed to prove fraud. The U.S. Education Department is presently drafting rules to provide clarification.

Most of the 7,500 borrowers that are seeking loan forgiveness attended private universities and 3/4 of those colleges were owned by now-defunct Corinthian Colleges. But, Above the Law says some unemployed law grads are encouraged to apply for loan forgiveness through this program known as “borrower defense”  or “defense to repayment.”

In spite of the negatives, Above the Law sees a positive beyond individual borrowers who might be able to benefit. In a blog, they state this: “If enough borrowers are granted relief under the borrower defense program, the Department of Education will eventually start investigating law schools that continue to admit under-qualified students who end up with no jobs and are unable to pass the bar exam.”

Article via ABA Journal, February 4, 2016

Photo: 2011 10 06 – 1237 – Washington DC – Occupy DC via thisisbossi [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Yahoo sued for gender bias by male employee

Yahoo is being sued by a former employee that claims that he was discriminated against for being male.

Gregory Anderson, who was employed in Yahoo’s media division was fired in November 2014.  He filed a lawsuit against the tech giant, alleging the company’s performance management system was arbitrary and unfair. Anderson “alleges that Mayer encouraged and fostered the use of the QPR Program to accommodate management’s subjective biases and personal opinions, to the detriment of Yahoo’s male employees.”

The QPR Program at Yahoo is the controversial quarterly performance review program that ranks employees and then fires the lowest ranking ones. In the Media division, where Anderson was an editor, the complaint says that when male and female employees got equally low scores (anything under 3), the women were favored and the men were fired. What’s worse, in the case that both male and female employees got the same score, the men were fired and the female employee took over the male employees job.

This isn’t the first discrimination lawsuit to be tied to a stack ranking system. In the early 2000s, a cascade of cases against Ford, Goodyear, and Capital One, alleged that such systems led to age discrimination against older employees

The lawsuit also alleges that in addition to discriminating against men, Yahoo fires people without just cause and did not give 60 days’ notice to staff affected in mass layoffs. In California, layoffs are defined as terminating more than 50 people at one time, therefore not providing notice violates California law. In addition to the complaint about the way that people were fired, Anderson’s complaint also alleges that there was unfair gender based biased for hiring.  Former Chief Marketing Officer Kathy Savitt, almost exclusively hired women into management positions in Yahoo’s media division.

Under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and also California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, discrimination on the basis of sex is illegal. It doesn’t matter which gender the person happens to be.

“The Anderson lawsuit raises the question of how to correct lingering gender discrimination against women and suggests that the answer is not yet more illegal discrimination,” wrote Anderson’s attorney Jon Parsons in a statement about the lawsuit.

Article via Huffington Post, 4 February 2016

Photo: Yahoo! by Eric Hayes [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]