Instead Of Earning Millions In Hollywood, He Has Saved Over 6000 Young Girls’ Lives

Ashton Kutcher may have stepped back from the Hollywood spotlight for a bit, but he’s making a huge comeback… as a humanitarian, among other things. Some famous folks use their celebrity status and visibility to bring light to issues that need attention and, in this case, Ashton has really done something amazing. Ashton has a successful acting career, as well as being an investor in successful companies, like Airbnb, Spotify and Uber.

It’s his involvement in the anti-human trafficking effort that should get all of the attention, however.

In this 2016 interview, Ashton talked to the Today show about his Netflix series The Ranch, but there was also discussion of the organization he founded with his ex-wife Demi Moore in 2008.

The organization, called Thorn, has the following goal: “to build technology to defend children from sexual abuse.” In 2015, Thorn reported that 75 percent of child sex trafficking survivors surveyed noted they were eventually “sold” online.

Asia, a survivor who talked to Thorn during a 2015 study, explained: “People are posted and sold online multiple times a day. As far as the ad that was posted up [for me], there was a girl who eerily looked like me… just [like] you can go find a car, there was a picture, and a description, and a price.”

Ashton explained: “Basically, the purchase and commerce for human trafficking is happening online, just like everything else now, and so we’re building digital tools to fight back against it.”

Armed with this information, Ashton noted that Thorn “built a tool to help law enforcement prioritize their caseload and recover victims and find traffickers.” He added: “And we’ve found and identified and recovered over 6,000 trafficking victims this year. And we’ve found, identified, and recovered 2,000 traffickers.”

The organization’s website explains:

“We partner across the tech industry, government and NGOs and leverage technology to combat predatory behavior, rescue victims, and protect vulnerable children.

The site also lists 20 members of what it calls The Thorn Technology Task Force, comprised of technology companies that lend their knowledge, time and resources to the work that we do.

Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Adobe are listed among the names who are helping Thorn’s cause.”

The organization’s work doesn’t end, however, as Ashton noted: “Our next battle, my next commitment… I’m going to make a pledge that I’m going to eliminate child pornography from the internet.”

Kutcher testified in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in February 2017, where he gave a speech about modern day slavery, saying, in part:

“I’m here today to defend the right to pursue happiness. It’s a simple notion: ‘the right to pursue happiness.’ It’s bestowed upon all of us by our constitution. Every citizen of this country has the right to pursue it. And I believe that it is incumbent on us as citizens of this nation, as Americans, to bestow that right upon others, upon each other, and upon the rest of the world. But the right to pursue happiness for so many is stripped away — it’s raped, it’s abused, it’s taken by force, fraud, or coercion. It is sold for the momentary happiness of another.”

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The government creates another housing bubble – AEI – American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Home prices are booming. So far, 2018 has posted the strongest growth since 2005. “About 60% of all U.S. metros saw an acceleration in the rate of price increases through February this year,” according to Housing Wire. Since mid-2012, real home prices have increased 28%, according to data from the American Enterprise Institute. Entry-level home prices are up about double that rate. In contrast, over the same period household income has barely kept pace with inflation. The current pace of home-price inflation is increasing the risk of another housing bubble.

The root of the problem is declining underwriting standards. In April Freddie Mac announced an expansion of its 3% down-payment mortgage, the better to compete with the Federal Housing Administration and Fannie Mae . Such moves propel home prices upward. Because government agencies guarantee about 80% of all home-purchase mortgages, their underwriting standards guide the market.

Making lending even more dangerous, CNBC recently reported that “credit scores may go up” because new regulatory guidance allows delinquent taxes to be excluded when calculating credit scores. These are only some of the measures that “expand the credit box” and qualify ever-shakier borrowers for mortgages.

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During the last crisis, easy credit led home prices to rise at an unsustainable pace, leading marginally qualified borrowers to stretch themselves thin. Millions of Americans’ dreams became nightmares when the housing market turned. The lax underwriting terms that helped borrowers qualify for a mortgage haunted many households for the next decade.

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Yes, there really is a tax break for upper-income graduate students and Congress won’t let it expire – AEI – American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

In an earlier Evidence Speaks post this year, Susan Dynarski and Judith Scott-Clayton summarized important research showing that federal tax benefits for college tuition have had no measurable impact on increasing college-going behavior.[1] Moreover, they note that the benefits are numerous, overlapping and complicated. Yet for all their flaws, these tax breaks enjoy such strong support from lawmakers that even the oddest one, which quietly expires each year, is always revived in a last-minute bill just in time for the tax filing season. The tuition and fees deduction (“the deduction”) was recently extended for a seventh time in an omnibus budget bill in February.[2] Out of all the tuition tax benefits the government offers, this one should be relatively easy to let go because of whom it unintentionally targets.

@brybree via Twenty20

Here is how the deduction works. Tax filers can deduct up to $4,000 of tuition and fees paid for higher education in the tax year. It is an “above-the-line” deduction, meaning filers can claim it without having to itemize deductions. As a deduction, filers earn a benefit equal to their marginal tax rate. The maximum benefit any filer could extract from the deduction is $880, the top marginal tax rate of those who are eligible (22 percent) times $4,000. There is no limit to the number of times a filer can claim the deduction, so long as he has incurred tuition expenses, and it does not matter what type of credential he pursues. There is, however, an income limit. Taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes above $80,000 ($160,000 for joint filers) cannot claim it.

There is nothing odd about those terms per se, but they interact with other tax benefits the government offers for tuition such that only upper-income graduate students benefit from the deduction. First, undergraduates, while eligible for the deduction, don’t claim it because a different tax credit only for undergraduates is more beneficial: the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which is worth up to $2,500 in tax relief for filers earning up to $90,000 ($180,000 for joint filers).[3] Tax filers can claim only one tuition tax benefit although they usually qualify for more than one. Second, graduate students with lower and middle incomes are also eligible for the deduction, but they can claim the $2,000 Lifetime Learning Credit, which almost always delivers a bigger tax break than the tuition and fees deduction.[4] But the Lifetime Learning credit has a lower income cut-off than the deduction. Those earning over $66,000 ($132,000 for joint filers) in 2017 cannot claim it.[5]

That’s how the deduction ends up targeting upper-income graduate students. While graduate students would always obtain a larger benefit from the Lifetime Learning Credit, they cannot claim it if they earn more than $66,000 ($132,000 for joint filers). They can, however, claim the deduction until their earnings exceed $80,000 ($160,000 for joint filers). Thus a narrow band of graduate students, those earning between the income limits for the two benefits, are the only students who would claim the deduction. At those levels, their incomes are higher than the incomes of about 80 percent of U.S. households.[6] Of course, tax filers can unintentionally claim a less generous benefit if they are eligible for more than one, such as an undergraduate claiming the deduction when she was eligible for the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which does happen.[7]

What the data say about eligible students

Using a representative sample of graduate students in 2011-12, Kim Dancy of New America and I estimated that just 8 percent of graduate students would benefit from the deduction. Meanwhile, 64 percent of graduate students would benefit most from the Lifetime Learning Credit. The rest of graduate students (28 percent) were ineligible for any tax benefit because they have no taxable income, their tuition was fully covered by grants and scholarships, or their earnings were too high.[8] The analysis assumes that tax filers claim the benefit that provides them with the largest tax reduction if they qualify for more than one. These numbers have likely shifted in recent years, with even fewer students benefiting from the deduction, because Congress has increased the earnings cap for the Lifetime Learning Credit to account for inflation but left the limits for the deduction unchanged.

We also estimated the average benefit graduate students would claim through the deduction for the 2011-12 academic year. At $621, it was smaller than the $859 average benefit that filers eligible for the Lifetime Learning Credit could claim.[9] Due to small sample sizes, however, we were unable to reliably assess important characteristics of filers eligible for the deduction, such as field of study.

The deduction didn’t start out as a graduate school tax break

As is often the case in public policy, lawmakers did not set out explicitly to provide a tax break to upper-income graduate students. In fact, graduate students were never the target group for the tuition tax breaks; undergraduates were always the focus. Although graduate students have been eligible for the tax benefits since their inception, changes to the policies over the years have left the deduction benefiting upper-income graduate students alone.

Prior to mid-1990s, the federal government did not offer widely-available tax breaks for college tuition. The idea first gained prominence when President Clinton proposed a $10,000 deduction for college tuition as part of his “Middle-Class Bill of Rights” reelection platform.[10] After critics noted that a deduction would provide more help to families in higher tax brackets, Clinton added a separate tax credit for the first two years of college to his proposal to provide more even benefits.[11] Congress adopted the president’s idea for the credit in 1997, naming it the Hope Tax Credit, but rejected the additional proposal for a $10,000 deduction. They instead replaced that proposal with a separate credit for “lifelong learning” (i.e., the Lifetime Learning Credit) that families could claim for education after the first two years of college, including graduate school.[12]

Thus, President Clinton’s original idea for a deduction and a credit was replaced with two credits, the Hope Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit. In keeping with their original purpose to provide middle-class tax relief, Congress capped income eligibility for both benefits at $55,000 ($100,000 for joint filers) in 1997.[13]

With these two tax credits on the books, the idea of a deduction for tuition would be unnecessary and redundant, yet Congress later decided to add one anyway. Seemingly out of nowhere, lawmakers included a $4,000 deduction for tuition and fees in the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, the sweeping bill that included President Bush’s campaign proposal to cut marginal tax rates.[14]

The deduction differed from the two initial tax credits in a key way, which partially explains why lawmakers added it. Families earning up to $80,000 ($160,000 for joint filers) would be eligible as of 2004. That was significantly higher than the income cutoff for the Hope and Lifetime Learning Credits at the time and would therefore offer tax benefits to families with incomes arguably well above middle class. But why not just raise the income limits on the existing credits then? Because creating the new deduction was a way to restrict costs relative to expanding the existing Lifetime Learning Credit in terms of forgone revenue to the government. Recall that the value of the deduction is worth the amount deducted times the marginal tax rate, which at the time it was created would have been $1,120 at the most.[15] That is about half the maximum value of the Lifetime Learning credit.[16]

In other words, the deduction was a way to let upper-income families into the college tax benefit club on the cheap. It also ensured their benefits would be smaller than those of the middle-class families, who were eligible for the credits.

At the time it was created, the deduction was as much an undergraduate benefit as a graduate one. Upper-income families would claim it for tuition paid in pursuit of either degree. According to my analysis referenced earlier, about the same share of graduate students as undergraduates qualified for it prior to 2009.[17] But in 2009, Congress would make it pointless for almost any undergraduate to claim the deduction. That year, lawmakers replaced the Hope Credit with the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which provided larger benefits than the deduction with an income cutoff even higher than the deduction. With upper-income undergraduates now qualifying for American Opportunity Tax Credit, graduate students became the only group left who could benefit from the original tuition and fees deduction.

Conclusion

While Congress never decided to directly create a special tax break for upper-income graduate students alone, opting to extend the deduction year after year is effectively the same thing. The latest one-year extension, which made the deduction available for the 2017 tax year, cost the government over $200 million in forgone revenue.[18]

At a time when an undergraduate education feels financially out of reach for so many families, it’s fair to ask why Congress continues to spend these resources on students who have already earned an undergraduate degree. Moreover, these students earn a median household income of $102,000, according to my analysis.[19] There does not appear to be a good answer to that question other than inertia. Lawmakers have always extended the benefit so they continue to extend it. They may not realize, however, that it no longer benefits undergraduate students.

All of the tax benefits may be a policy failure for not increasing enrollment or being overly complex, but at least those for undergraduates put more money in the pockets of low- and middle-income families working toward their first degree. Today, the deduction does neither. It helps those who already have an undergraduate degree and earn high incomes to boot. While its cost in terms of forgone revenue are relatively modest, those resources would be better spent on aid that encourages students to enroll in and complete an undergraduate degree.

Footnotes

[1] Sue Dynarski and Judith Scott-Clayton, “The Tax Benefits for Education Don’t Increase Education,” Brookings Institution, April 2018, https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-tax-benefits-for-education-dont-increase-education/.
[2] Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, Public Law 115–123, § 40203 (2018).
[3] Internal Revenue Service, “Instructions for Form 8863, Education Credits (American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Credits) (2017),” https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i8863.pdf.
[4] There are some circumstances when the deduction might produce a larger benefit than the Lifetime Learning Credit if a filer paid tuition and fees below $4,000 and he is in the highest tax bracket of those eligible for the deduction. For example, a filer in the 22% tax bracket who deducts $3,000 in expenses receives a $660 tax reduction; under the Lifetime Learning credit his benefit would be $600.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Author’s calculation using the American Community Survey, 2016.
[7] Government Accountability Office, “Improved Tax Information Could Help Families Pay for College,” May 2012, https://www.gao.gov/assets/600/590970.pdf
[8] Jason Delisle and Kim Dancy, “Graduate Students and Tuition Tax Benefits,” New America, December 2015, 6–7, https://na-production.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/graduate-students-and-tuition-tax-benefits.pdf.
[9] Author’s calculation using the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study 2011–12. See also Jason Delisle and Kim Dancy, “Graduate Students and Tuition Tax Benefits,” New America, December 2015.
[10] William J. Clinton, “Address to the Nation on the Middle Class Bill of Rights,” December 15, 1997, www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=49591.
[11] Douglas Lederman, “The Politicking and Policy Making Behind a $40-Billion Windfall: How Clinton, Congress, and Colleges Battled to Shape Hope Scholarships,” Chronicle of Higher Education, November 28, 1997.
[12] Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, Public Law 105–34 § 201 (1997).
[13] Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, Public Law 105–34 § 101 (1997).
[14] Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, Public Law 107–16 § 431 (2001).
[15] The top marginal tax rate for filers eligible for the deduction was 28 percent in the mid 2000s.
[16] See endnote 4. for an explanation of how sometimes when tuition and fees are below $4,000, tax filers can qualify for a larger tax reduction through the deduction than if the Lifetime Learning Credit.
[17] Jason Delisle and Kim Dancy, “A New Look at Tuition Tax Benefits,” New America, November 2015, https://static.newamerica.org/attachments/10416-a-new-look-at-tuition-tax-benefits/TaxCredits11.2.277d3f7daa014d5a8632090f97641cee.pdf; and Jason Delisle and Kim Dancy, “Graduate Students and Tuition Tax Benefits,” New America, December 2015, 6–7, https://na-production.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/graduate-students-and-tuition-tax-benefits.pdf.
[18] Joint Committee on Taxation, “Federal Tax Provisions Expired in 2017” (JCX-5-18), March 9, 2018.
[19] Author’s calculation using the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study 2011–12. See also Jason Delisle and Kim Dancy, “Graduate Students and Tuition Tax Benefits,” New America, December 2015.

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Video: FBI agent accidentally shoots patron at a Denver bar while he was getting his groove on

Anyone who thinks disgraced former FBI Director James Comey is the only PR problem in the 109-year-old agency clearly hasn’t met this idiot yet:

This unnamed off-duty FBI agent and complete moron almost killed someone at a Denver nightclub Saturday night when, while performing a back handspring, his gun fell to the ground and went off, sending a bullet speeding into the leg of a patron. While it’s true the victim is reportedly OK, this doesn’t excuse the agent’s incompetence.

What’s even more astounding is that by Sunday morning the perpetrator had not yet been publicly identified. Nor did it appear he would be facing any consequences for his actions.

“Authorities have not identified the agent because he was not arrested, Denver police community resource officer Marika Putnam said,” CNN reported Sunday afternoon. “Denver police will continue investigating the incident, and the district attorney’s office will determine whether charges will be filed against the agent.”

Does anyone really believe the agent will be fired, let alone even suspended?

From failing to stop the Parkland shooter in February to refusing to pursue criminal charges against the Obama-era IRS goons who targeted conservative groups, the contemporary incarnation of the bureau is nothing like the FBI of J. Edgar Hoover.

Nothing better demonstrates this than the behavior of Comey, who successfully transformed the once revered agency into an international laughing stock.

Watch below as he describes to late night host Conan O’Brien about how he once sang a Beyoncé song during a briefing:

What an absolute joke of a man and FBI director. But in his limited defense, at least he never almost killed someone — or at least not that anybody is aware of.

And at least he never once got so drunk with an exotic dancer that he passed out, only to later wake up and discover he’d been robbed blind.

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Dick’s Stock Soars After Unexpectedly High Earnings Report

Following the shooting in Parkland, Dick’s Sporting Goods did something that angered a whole lot of us. They made a decision to expand their refusal to sell AR-15s to their Field & Stream stores. They also decided they would refuse to sell long guns to anyone under 21 despite federal law permitting sales to 18-year-olds.

Many in the gun community felt that this would amount to suicide for the company and initial signs seemed like that prediction might bear out.

Well, following an announcement from the company, those predictions need to be reviewed.

Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc.’s stock spiked as much as 24 percent — the most ever — after the sports retailer posted results that impressed investors, with higher profit guidance outweighing uncertainty over the company’s vocal stance on guns.

Revenue beat expectations, despite the company’s move to end sales of assault-style rifles in February after a shooting at a Florida high school. Chief Executive Officer Ed Stack has since met with elected officials, spoken publicly about the need to increase regulations and hired a lobbying firm to push Congress.

 

Big Beat

 

Dick’s topped earnings estimates by the widest margin since 2011.
How much those moves helped or hurt the retailer remains to be seen. Dick’s was struggling to grow revenue before it took these measures, and Stack warned in March that the company would receive some “blowback” that would hurt sales. But the chain’s main customers are also parents of school-age children, so the brand could have received a boost of goodwill in some parts of the country.

While the retailer’s first-quarter same-store sales fell 0.9 percent, its third straight decline, the drop wasn’t as steep as Wall Street expected and helped the company surpass projections on profit, too. Dick’s also raised its earning forecast for the year to as much as $3.12 a share, up from $3, because of fewer promotions and more revenue coming from its more profitable private-label brands.

So what does any of this mean?

Honestly, it’s too early to see. As Bloomberg notes, their stance on guns may have actually contributed to the spike in earnings. While gun owners are refusing to do business with the company at all, anti-gunners have likely looked to Dick’s for all of their sporting goods purchases, driving revenue.

If that’s the case, Dick’s is still in trouble. After all, anti-gunners aren’t typically that loyal as consumers, but gun owners have long memories of companies that they feel screw them over. In other words, this may be a temporary spike that won’t last more than a quarter or two.

Of course, it’s easy to look at how something like this panned out and try to find a positive spin on it.

It’s also possible that any boycott against Dick’s just doesn’t have the traction many of us would like to think it has. It’s entirely possible that many may not agree with the decision but still shop at the retailer for whatever reason. I can’t begin to imagine what those reasons might be, but I’m sure they exist.

Basically, it’s too early to tell just what this means in the grand scheme of things. There could easily be a number of reasons why this happened, some of which have nothing to do with guns. We’ll just have to wait and see.

 

The post Dick’s Stock Soars After Unexpectedly High Earnings Report appeared first on Bearing Arms.

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Facebook co-founder’s wife spent $650G on Shaun King’s PAC bid to reform criminal justice system

Cari Tuna — wife of Dustin Moskovitz, who co-founded Facebook together with Mark Zuckerberg — contributed more than $650,000 to the Real Justice PAC in February 2017, the Washington Free Beacon reported. The PAC also took in $400,000 in contributions in …

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Southern Baptist denomination severs tieswith DC Baptists over homosexuality

The Southern Baptist Convention cut relational and financial ties with the D.C. Baptist Convention for refusing to disfellowship a church with two lesbian pastors. The Executive Committee of the SBC issued a warning to the DCBC in February in which the D.C. convention was given 90 days to remove any church in its fellowship that “practice affirming, approving or endorsing homosexual behavior,” according to Baptist Press.

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It’s time to be more open about what NZ troops are doing in Iraq

A New Zealand soldier from Task Group Taji 6 guides a compatriot in a forklift who is unloading a container of M16 assault rifles during the transfer of Iraq Train and Equip Fund equipment to the Iraqi Army’s 74th Brigade at Taji Military Complex, Iraq, on February 20, 2018. The Government and state agencies need to be more open about New Zealand’s military role in Iraq, Harmeet Singh Sooden argues.

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Requirements disproportionately impact low-income and African American communities

On February 16, 2018, the Ohio Department of Medicaid proposed a Group VIII Work Requirements and Community Engagement 1115 Demonstration Waiver. The letter was cosigned by Representatives Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11), and Joyce Beatty (OH …

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