Month: February 2020

The Best Moments from NBA All-Star Weekend 2020

From Kobe tributes to Dunk Contest controversy and an All-Star Game for the ages, this was one weekend basketball fans will never forget.

Image via Getty/Stacy Revere

Kobe Bryant committed his life to being the best—the best on the basketball court, the best in business and entertainment, and the best father. Simply… the best.

It was fitting, then, that as today’s best NBA players gathered in Chicago for the 2020 All-Star Weekend, the festivities were saturated with moving tributes to the great 2-guard, and that this All-Star Weekend was perhaps the best we’ve ever had.

Kobe redefined hard work. There will only ever be one Mamba. And his one-of-a-kind impact was omnipresent in Chicago this past weekend.

Prior to the All-Star Game, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced that the game’s MVP award had been renamed for Kobe. In Sunday night’s showdown between the All-Star teams helmed by this year’s two top vote-getters, Team Giannis wore Kobe’s No. 24 while Team LeBron sported No. 2 in honor of Kobe’s daughter, Gianna Bryant. The structure of the game was even altered, with Bryant’s signature 24 playing a key role in the scoring system.  

To kick off Sunday’s game, hometown favorite Jennifer Hudson offered a rousing tribute to the Mamba and Kawhi Leonard dedicated his All-Star Game MVP to the former Lower Merion guard. Kobe was the focus during Friday’s entertaining activities and Saturday’s exhilarating slate. He was the center of everything.

Plenty happened off-court at All-Star Weekend, too. At the Metro All-Access Purple Couch event on Saturday, Khris Middleton, Tyler Herro, and Jason Terry dished on the behind-the-scenes realities of NBA life and shared insights on their experiences in the league. READ MORE IN DEPTH COVERAGE

Lizzo Talks Double Standard for Critiquing Men’s Bodies vs. Women’s: ‘We Don’t Talk About Your Dick Sizes, Do We?’

Lizzo has never been one to shy away from sharing her honest opinions, especially regarding body positivity.

Now, the singer has touched on the topic once again in an interview with Brazil’s TV Folha, after her debut performance in Rio de Janeiro.

“I think that women are always going to be criticized for existing in their bodies,” Lizzo said. “And I don’t think I’m any different than any of the other great women who’ve come before me that had to literally be politicized just to be sexual, or sexualized just to exist. Things on them that were beautiful were called flaws and they persisted against that and fought against that.”

She continued, “Now, I’m able to do what I do because of those great women. And they all look completely different. They don’t all look the same. And they all had to deal with the same type of marginalization and misogyny.”

She then called out the double standard between women and men’s physical appearances: “So what does that tell you about the oppressor—what does that tell you about men? Get it together. We don’t talk about your dick sizes, do we? And say that’s not a conventional dick size—it’s too small. We still let y’all asses run all over the goddamn place.”

Lizzo also touched on the “lack of representation in the world” with Brazil’s G1.

“There is a lack of representation in the world—full stop. Especially for women who look like me,” she said. “But my choice process was to make myself visible, not to shrink. To be heard and use my platforms to raise other women. That’s why I put black and big dancers and also an entire orchestra of black women on the Grammy stage—because I think that if I can help them, I must help them.”

Watch TV Folha’s interview with Lizzo above.

The Student Loan Appeal Process the Government Doesn’t Tell You About

The Education Department has a powerful complaint resolution path that is kept largely out of sight.

In the deluge of complaints about a troubled program that pays off student loans for people who work in public service, one stands out for its frequency: Thousands of people say they were misled by loan servicers working on the U.S. government’s behalf.

It is among the most vexing problems with a program that has become a notorious quagmire, with a rejection rate of nearly 99 percent. Lawmakers, consumer advocates and desperate public servants say the Education Department should create a formal process to appeal denials, especially rejections that borrowers say were affected by mistakes made by servicers.

But it turns out the Education Department already has a system for investigating complaints and making fixes — it just keeps it very quiet.

At a training conference for financial aid professionals in December, a program specialist at the Education Department said during a presentation that if the agency finds out that it or the servicers it hires “did something wrong,” it will “hold the borrower harmless as a result.”

Those who think they have been harmed by a servicer’s error should file a complaint explaining what happened through the Federal Student Aid office’s feedback system on the StudentAid.gov website, the specialist, Ian Foss, said during his presentation. That routes complaints to the agency’s Ombudsman Group, and the department will then investigate and try to confirm the borrower’s account.

That startled many in the room.

“I was legitimately surprised,” said Ryann Liebenthal, a journalist who is writing a book on student debt and asked the question that prompted Mr. Foss’s answer. She had never before heard of the department’s dispute system.

But the agency has investigated hundreds of borrowers’ claims and found that they were given inaccurate advice or otherwise victimized by a servicer’s error, according to agency records and interviews with current and former government officials. After verifying their claims — using any records it could get, including the call recordings that most servicers keep — the department adjusted those borrowers’ accounts using what is known internally as an “override” credit.

Yet few borrowers know about the appeals process — and even government auditors think that’s a problem.

In a report last year, the Government Accountability Office found that “there is no formal process for borrowers who are dissatisfied” to challenge decisions and that the Education Department does not fully inform borrowers about their appeal options, including the Ombudsman Group.

The obscurity is intentional: The Education Department does not prominently advertise the feedback system because the manual investigations are time-consuming, according to three people familiar with the matter.

That frustrates advocates for borrowers. READ MORE: