Things That Matter

It Is So Hard To Pay Back Student Loan Debts In The US That American Borrows Are Fleeing To Live Abroad To Avoid Paying

Financial analysts have long predicted that the next bubble that will burst and lay damage on the economy of the United States (y por ende of the whole world) is the student debt bubble. Millions of college graduates owe so much money as a result of their graduate degrees that it will take a good amount of years before they can enjoy a clean slate, un nuevo inicio with no malditas deudas. As employment prospects grow dimmer in troubling financial times, these graduates just can’t get the jobs that will allow them to live comfortable, grow their wealth, and pay their student loans. It is a monetary bottleneck that has everyone scratching their heads. What to do? Condone debt and give people with university degrees a chance? That is sort of unfeasible, as the financial system is sustained through futures, bonds and the selling and buying of debt, so sometime, somewhere, there would be a huge hole in the system.

Some graduates are finding an alternative that is as legally tricky as it is ethically controversial: they are leaving the United States to avoid paying their debts. Some live in Europe, others look for alternative citizenships based on their heritage and some others just migrate to places like Australia, where Anglo migration (read, white migration!) is given a free pass even if their visa status is not crystal clear.

This option has sparked fiery debates on the Internet, as more and more news outlets report on members of an arguably lost generation who chose to leave rather than to live in debt. 

Vice published an article on Americans who now live almost debt-free in Europe. This happened all the way back in 2016, so this is not quite new.

Credit: @FeministGriote / Twitter

The phenomenon has been present for at least three years (could the election of POTUS be a factor, we guess?). Anyway, users such as Sister Outsider were not happy at all is that who the country is, she asked? 

Others thought that this was a very smart move because student loan debt interest rates are nearly impossible to overcome.

Credit: @Hippington / Twitter

This dude James Hipp seems to take it a bit more lightly. Well, anything goes eh?

The article sparked some seriously opposing views, despite the growing fear that millions of students will remain in debt indefinitely.

Credit: @that1laura / @Mchacon49r / Twitter

These two couldn’t possibly be farther apart in their views. One calls these “Debt Dodgers” as the VICE article called them, “selfish, entitled, and arrogant”. Meanwhile, a user who is actually wearing graduation regalia simply says that she doesn’t blame them. Perhaps she is facing similar fears and uncertainty in terms of her future in the workplace. Because let’s be honest: things are pretty grim the world over. Not to mention that there have been recent articles about people entering retirement with student loan debt left to pay.

Some people just don’t understand how someone could run from their student loans.

Credit: @xavifred / Twitter

Did Xavi dude just calls them “deadbeats”, huevonesperezosos. But sometimes these are people who actually want to work, but find little or no prospects at home and look for a better horizon. Isn’t that what the immigrant spirit is made up from?

Just last year a CNBC article set fire to Twitter over the same issue.

Credit: @airfarceone / Twitter

This user, who we assume is a conservative Internet keyboard warrior, equates debt dodgers with the young men who dodged the draft during the Vietnam War. Is this a fair comparison? Yes, they decided to get an education, but this is the core of the controversy: should education be a right or a privilege?

Should some people just not go to college? @AlephBlog seems to think so.

Credit: @AlephBlog / Twitter

The CNBN article told the story of a graduate in debt who now lives in India, caring for elephants. User David Merkel simply says that these people should not go to college at all. Is he right? His savage judgment evidences a worldview in black and white. Obviously, people don’t want to leave.

No one asked them to go to university? Well, things are a bit more complicated than that, @TeresaGillia.

Credit: @TeresaGillia / Twitter

The contemporary social and financial status quo demands that young people acquire skills in information management and professional work. Manual work in the United States is generally underpaid, so if folk want to get ahead in life a university education seems to be the only way. So the choice is limited: yes, young people can choose not to go to university, but in doing so are risking not advancing in life, in monetary terms. But what happens when people get a degree, work hard and still see no descanso in sight?

User Jim Robinson has a point: the banks and other financial institutions are also to blame.

Credit: @ThatJimR / Twitter

Just as the 2008 Global Financial Crisis revealed (you can see it explained with peras y manzanas in the movie The Big Short), the addiction to debt and the trigger happy nature of the banking system has generated a lot of immediate wealth that ultimately leads to financial ruin. Banks have chosen to loan so much money knowing that students won’t be able to pay it back, that their bad decisions have come to bite everyone en el culo. Jim Robinson is right: some loans are indiscriminate. These financial practices border criminality de cuello blanco

Student debt has been on everyone’s mind this past month, ever since this billionaire wiped off the debt of an entire graduating class.

Credit: @ijsvv / Twitter

It might seem to be the feel-good story of the month, but the fact that Robert F. Smith made this magnificent donation and gave a whole class of students an Oprah-like moment is more like the symptom of a broken system, rather than a sign of pure goodwill. He must have looked at all those young people, mostly Black, and knew that they would face a lot of hardship unless he interfered, that the joy of graduation would soon turn into the darkness of precarious financial prospects.

Let’s get some context on the current political climate: this tweet sort of sums up what many are facing.

Credit: @rideatdawn/ Twiter

At the other end of the political spectrum, we find another millionaire, Betsy DeVos, the US Secretary of Education, who is actually cutting the budget for debt forgiveness. This tweet captures the feeling that many are having at the moment: any life-changing step (such as having kids or buying a house) is stalled due to the lack of support that the government is able or willing to give to those taking their first steps into adult life. What is the solution?

 The “Debt dodger” controversy got new traction a few days ago.

Credit: @lany891 / Twitter

New reports point to a spike to this trend, and the conversation has gained momentum given the prominence that the student debt crisis has had leading to the presidential election next year. This user references the plan drawn by Dem presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren, who proposes to wipe out student debt by taxing the wealthy. According to a Politico/Morning Consult poll, 56% of registered voters support the Massachusetts senator’s proposal. It is hard to judge either side, but something’s gotta give and the student debt crisis will either puncture or strengthen the idea of the American Dream (our take, solidarity is always best).

READ: The SATs Have A Problematic And Racist History Fueled By The Creator Of The Test Who Praised Eugenics And Racial Separation

Travel Restrictions Limit Americans To Only Flying Into Havana But Sube Let’s Americans Explore The Island

Things That Matter

Travel Restrictions Limit Americans To Only Flying Into Havana But Sube Let’s Americans Explore The Island

subecuba / Instagram

The progression of Cuba’s modern world has been a slow one, but it’s also been eager to thrive thanks to the younger generation. The integration of the internet didn’t arrive on the island until the late aughts. Back then, when U.S. relations with Cuba became friendlier under the Obama Administration, it looked as if Cuba was ready to get online. However, it wasn’t until 2007 that Cuba decided to team up with Venezuela in order for the country to help them venture into the digital age. Now, under the Trump Administration, who is putting the breaks on the Cuba/U.S. relationship, the Cuban people have something more to aspire to. 

A Cuban startup has launched a cab service that will help tourists get around the island now that the Trump Administration has blocked airline travel to all areas of Cuba except Havana.

Credit: subecuba / Instagram

The company is called Sube (which translations to “get on” or “hop on”), and it’s basically a ride-share service like Uber and Lyft, although their intention is to seek out tourists who wish to visit the areas outside of Havana. 

Late last year, the Trump Administration issued a travel ban throughout the island, which meant that American airlines could only fly into Havana. All other airports in Cuba were forbidden. The announcement didn’t automatically erase flights that were already booked. U.S. travelers can only arrive in Havana, so if they have plans outside of the capital, getting there is trickier and expensive. The solution is Sube. 

Sube wants tourists to know that their service is safe and that they can provide an exciting and fun way to get around the island.

Credit: subecuba / Instagram

“Sube is a ridesharing app founded in Cuba,” their About section states. “Our drivers will help you move around safely and fast while sharing their knowledge of our customs and culture.”

One of the most popular attractions in Cuba is their vintage cars. So how can these old cars keep up with this new motive of transportation? Sube owners say all cars, vintage ones as well, are in perfect condition and can drive long distances. All drivers have verified licenses as well. 

The app launched in 2018, and since then, the app has been downloaded at least 10,000 times and so far has 6,000 registered users.

Credit: subecuba / Instagram

“We knew the trouble people go through in Cuba to get to work every day, to get home, or if they just want to go out,” Claudia Cuevas Alarcón told NBC News. Aside from Cuevas Alarcón, a 27-year-old, Sube’s creators include 26-year-old Damián Martín, 26, and 27-year-old Darién González. 

What makes this company even more fascinating is that these young entrepreneurs have found a way to work the system to their benefit. For example, U.S. credit cards are prohibited on the island, which means travelers can only use cash. 

Sube creators registered their company in the U.S., so this makes it possible for travelers to download the app before they leave their home country, upload their credit card information. Once they arrive on the island, they have already reserved their car service, and the exchange of payment is not needed. 

It’s not just tourists who use the app, locals are using Sube to get around the island as well.

Credit: subecuba / Instagram

“If you are visiting Cuba this December, move with SUBE and pay from abroad,” one of their beautiful Instagram posts says. “We have 70 registered and available taxis, which will make your trips more enjoyable and safe. You can book them before your arrival at the airport, until departure. Do not hesitate.”

Other ways to use Sube is pretty straightforward. You can use Whatsapp or Facebook to reserve a cab. Travel experts also suggest that if you’re traveling to Cuba, you should also download apps that will help not only with travel information but translation, money exchange, and texting capabilities. Here are some useful apps that extremely useful: Maps.me, XE currency, Google Translate, Pocket, Havanatrans, Zapya, AlaMesa, CubaMessenger, and ProtonVPN. And, of course, Whatsapp and Airbnb. 

It’s very exciting to see young Cubans not allowing connectivity or travel regulations (or any sort of limitation) stop them from progressing into a new frontier of digital capabilities.

READ: The Trump Administration Took Another Swipe At Cuba By Banning Almost All Flights To The Island

This 13-Year-Old Boy’s Face Caught On Fire During A Science Class Demonstration

Things That Matter

This 13-Year-Old Boy’s Face Caught On Fire During A Science Class Demonstration

As a kid, one of the most exciting parts of science class is observing how certain chemicals react with each other—seeing how all the abstract information you’ve learned on paper manifests in real life. Of course, every school science lab is supposed to have an eye-wash station, a shower, a fire extinguisher, and other such safety tools in case something goes awry, and while accidents do happen, it is imperative that science demonstrations in the classroom be handled with extreme care. Although no hard evidence currently exists on how often school lab accidents occur—as no entity tracks them as a distinct category—scores of preventable incidents are reported every year.

Most recently, the case of 13-year-old Priest Rivera has been making headlines.

Credit: Instagram | CBSNews8

Rivera’s face and upper body were severely burned when his teacher mistakenly botched a science demonstration in June 2019, and his family has filed a lawsuit against San Diego’s Encinitas Union School District.

Last June, sixth-grade teacher Lori Feinberg fumbled a seemingly simple science demonstration called the “black snake experiment.” This experiment involves the mixing of baking soda, sugar, sand, and alcohol, which is then introduced to a flame in order to form of a “sugar snake.” (When the mixture of baking soda and sugar gets hot, it decomposes to create carbon dioxide gas. A lack of oxygen in the sugar from the combustion creates carbonate and water vapor; the carbonate is pushed out by the pressure from the carbon dioxide, and voila! A snake is born.)

“It wasn’t really working and the science teacher kept pouring more rubbing alcohol to make the flame build up more. It went wrong and blew up in my face,” Priest told CBS News 8. He explained that he had ignited, and his friends surrounded him saying, “He’s on fire!”

The lawsuit filed on December 30, 2019, claims that Feinberg “recklessly” performed the “dangerous” science experiment which involved alcohol and flames “in windy conditions.” It also alleges that Feinberg provided her students with neither safety instructions nor protective equipment (like safety glasses) before performing the “black snake” experiment. The complaint also cites “severe and permanent injuries to Priest,” alleging both negligence and negligent action and stating that “Feinberg and the District knew it was highly probable that injury could occur when conducting an experiment involving flames, but knowingly disregarded that risk.” The family is seeking an unspecified amount in damages for Priest’s present and future hospital bills.

Although, as mentioned above, no hard numbers currently exist to verify the frequency of school lab accidents, the American Chemical Society’s Division of Chemical Health and Safety is seeking out “reliable data.”

Credit: Facebook | John M. Mantel / Daily Mail

According to Scientific American, “surveys find incidents to be much more common in academic settings than in industrial labs”—and if university labs are seeing high numbers of injury and death, imagine how much less prepared public elementary, middle, and high school labs are likely to be.

Indeed, another student victim of a science experiment gone wrong was awarded $59.1 in damages from the New York Department of Education last July. Alonzo Yanes and classmate Julia Saltonstall were left with severe burns after a botched demonstration by a high school teacher in 2014. Science teacher Anna Poole attempted to conduct a “Rainbow Experiment,” a popular staple in high school chemistry classes due to its rapid and intense bursts of flame.

The Rainbow Experiment involves a variety of mineral salts and lit candles, usually placed in a line. An accelerant commonly used in the experiment is methanol, an extremely volatile liquid that shows how different salts produce distinct colors when burned. However, methanol also produces vapor clouds that can quickly spread flames (or, conversely, which can linger and be ignited by unwitting sparks later on). It was this substance that Poole used in her demonstration, pouring it out of a gallon-sized jug instead of a safer, smaller container.

Students said that she had only reached the second dish when a massive flame spread down the line of dishes and enveloped Yanes in flames, ultimately burning 30% of his body. Students also remarked that Poole was the only one in the room wearing safety goggles.

Rivera’s parents have addressed the school’s reticence to claim responsibility for what happened to their son, and the consensus within the scientific community is a similar one: almost all such incidents are preventable by improving oversight and supervision. They are not simply the consequence of random misfortune.

According to chemical safety expert Neal Langerman, “The problem of school lab danger lies in management responsibility.” With proper training, appropriate safety measures (like wearing protective clothing), and regular procedural oversight, accidents like those that have affected countless young students (as well as teachers) all over the country can be avoided in the future.