Global Stories, Local Voices
Western Sky, a private online payday lender based on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, suspended its operations in early September after New York’s attorney general filed suit against it for violating state usury laws. This was the latest blow to a company already facing a number of state and federal suits for its allegedly illegal and abusive practices. Finally, the company said it stopped operating to deal with its legal problems. It would be easy to simply say good riddance to Western Sky. But the situation is more complex.
I spent the day with Butch Webb, Western Sky’s owner, and some employees last December. Webb told me Western Sky was the largest private employer on the reservation. In a place where about 50 percent of adult workers are either unemployed or out of the workforce, that means a lot.
Webb offered the promise of hundreds of jobs to tribal members in exchange for peddling online predatory loans to people off the reservation. Western Sky said it never lent money to people at Cheyenne River or in South Dakota. One employee told me it would create too big a backlash if they had to collect these loans from members of the tribe. Webb told me he had “enough problems to deal with.”
Amy Goodman, Journalist and host of democracynow
Today in Baghdad, local residents, youth, labor groups, women’s rights advocates and activists from across the region and the world gathered for the opening day of the first Iraqi Social Forum. The event is bringing people together at a difficult time for the country. Just today a series of bomb explosions hit public markets in and around Baghdad, killing more than two-dozen and wounding scores more. It’s the latest in a series of sectarian attacks that, according to the UN, has claimed some 4,000 lives in the past five months. But participants at today’s forum are offering hope and resistance under the slogan: “Another Iraq is possible…An Iraq of peace, human rights & social justice.” For more, we go to Baghdad to speak with Nadia al-Baghdadi, one of the organizers of the Forum and part of the Save the Tigris campaign.
In Washington today, the Senate Intelligence Committee questioned the leaders of the NSA and Office of National Intelligence about surveillance of US citizens and foreign nationals, conduct revealed by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. The hearing comes as a bipartisan coalition of US Senators introduces a bill to strip away some of the intelligence community’s powers to sweep up vast amounts of Americans’ data. On Capitol Hill, FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more.