This is a sampling from Bay Area News Group's Political Blotter blog. Read more and post comments at www.ibabuzz.com/politics.
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer this week led two dozen Senate Democrats in urging the student loan industry to ensure military service members have all the benefits that they're entitled to by law.
"We were alarmed to learn that some student loan servicers are providing incomplete or inaccurate information regarding service members' options for reducing their debt -- often leading individuals to make decisions that have costly long-term consequences," the senators wrote to Student Loan Servicing Alliance Executive Director Winfield Crigler. "In one particularly egregious example, a service member was guided toward a deferment plan that ended up increasing his total debt by $25,000. This is simply unacceptable."
Boxer's office noted about 41 percent of service members are now carrying student loan debt, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last month that the main reason why troops lose security clearances is because of financial problems.
Congress in the past has enacted loan repayment protections and benefits -- such as loan forgiveness programs and interest rate reductions -- to help service members manage their debt. But a report issued last month by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Office of Servicemember Affairs found many military men and women are facing significant challenges in fully accessing these benefits. Specifically, it found that some student loan servicers aren't providing clear, accurate information about available benefits or are forcing military borrowers to clear unnecessary hurdles in order to access the benefits they deserve.
"Our brave military men and women -- and their families -- make tremendous sacrifices each and every day in service to our nation. They should never have to fight for full access to the benefits they have earned, including student loan repayment protections," the senators wrote.
I have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving 2012, in both my personal and professional lives. I'll forgo the personal here, but share a few blessings I've had on the job this year:
The "pinch-me" bizarre campaign moments: Newt Gingrich promising to establish a U.S. moon base; Clint Eastwood berating an empty chair; Joe Biden chilling with the bikers; anyone at all taking Donald Trump seriously, ever, even for a nanosecond.
The stranger-than-fiction stories I covered: a U.S. Senate primary that featured, among many others, a surfing rabbi, a "birther" queen and an octogenarian mountain climber; the first one-on-one with Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi after her shoplifting conviction; a maniacally misinformed wedding-chapel owner in Reno; and, just this week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors suffering the consequences for banning public nudity.
My continued employment: The news industry's massive downsizing in recent years has pushed out many talented and valued colleagues and friends. I'm a very lucky man to still be doing what I love, and I'm thankful for it every day.
My bosses: Many thanks to editors Ken McLaughlin and Mike Frankel for all the work, from the fine-tuning to the big revamps, they've put into my stories this year; I'm a better reporter and writer for working with them.
Some people I've covered have endured an awful 2012 to varying degrees, from the Oikos University massacre's victims and their loved ones to the Lockyer family. I hold them and others in my thoughts today, and wish them a happier, healthier, brighter year to come.