More

Watch John Oliver forgive nearly $15 million in debt with the push of a button.

It's not quite Oprah yelling 'You get a car! You get a car!' It's better.

Watch John Oliver forgive nearly $15 million in debt with the push of a button.

Just by pressing a button, John Oliver made the largest one-time giveaway in TV history — nearly $15 million.

All GIFs from "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver."


The money went to nearly 9,000 individuals, and while they won't be receiving a check or a fancy car, their lives will be getting so much easier thanks to Oliver and his team at "Last Week Tonight."

During his segment on debt buyers and collectors, Oliver focused on a specific kind of delinquency: medical bills.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2012 nearly 1 in 6 families in the U.S. has struggled paying their outstanding medical bills; 1 in 10 families weren't able to pay bills at all.

That's billions of dollars worth of debt from millions of people.

The fact that medical bills are a typically unexpected expense makes that particular form of debt ripe for a very opportunistic and surprisingly unregulated industry: debt collectors.

Here's how debt buyers and collectors work.

It starts with a debt. One of the examples Oliver used was the case of a man who was hospitalized for four days with respiratory issues, later finding out that his insurance wouldn't cover the cost. This left him with $80,000 worth of debt he had no way of paying.

If the debt goes unpaid, the hospital might sell the rights to collect on it to a third party (a debt buyer), and then they can go about trying to collect it.

The problem here is that there's very little documentation that goes along with the sold debt, making it hard to prove who owns it and whether or not it's been paid off. While there is a statute of limitations on debt collection, debt buyers bank on the fact that the average consumer doesn't know that and will continue to try to collect — some with less than friendly tactics.

Basically, it's a big, stressful, anxiety-inducing mess for the person at the center of it all.

To prove just how easy it is to get into the debt-buying business, "Last Week Tonight" started their own collection agency.

After paying $50 to start their own agency, with Oliver listed as the chairman of the board, the "Last Week Tonight" team was offered the opportunity to buy nearly $15 million in medical debt from a group in Texas. The price? A little less than $60,000.

In exchange, Oliver was given a spreadsheet with thousands of names, phone numbers, social security numbers, and debt amounts. If they wanted to, the "Last Week Tonight" agency could have set about trying to collect on the nearly $15 million.

But they didn't.

Oprah's famous car giveaway was valued at around $7 million. Oliver nearly doubled that.

And unlike Oprah's car giveaway, there won't be any adverse tax consequences for the people whose debt has just been forgiven.

So. Freakin. Cool. Right?

You can learn more about credit buyers by watching the video from "Last Week Tonight," posted below.

Courtesy of FIELDTRIP
True

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected diverse communities due largely in part to social factors such as inadequate access to housing, income, dietary options, education and employment — all of which have been shown to affect people's physical health.

Recognizing that inequity, Harlem-based chef JJ Johnson sought out to help his community maximize its health during the pandemic — one grain at a time.

Johnson manages FIELDTRIP, a health-focused restaurant that strives to bring people together through the celebration of rice, a grain found in cuisines of countless cultures.

"It was very important for me to show the world that places like Harlem want access to more health-conscious foods," Johnson said. "The people who live in Harlem should have the option to eat fresh, locally farmed and delicious food that other communities have access to."

Lack of education and access to those healthy food options is a primary driver of why 31% of adults in Harlem are struggling with obesity — the highest rate of any neighborhood in New York City and 7% higher than the average adult obesity rate across the five boroughs.

Obesity increases risk for heart disease or diabetes, which in turn leaves Harlem's residents — who are 76% Black or LatinX — at heightened risk for complications with COVID-19.

Keep Reading Show less

Empathy. Compassion. Heart-to-heart human connection. These qualities of leadership may not be flashy or loud, but they speak volumes when we see them in action.

A clip of Joe Biden is going viral because it reminds us what that kind of leadership looks like. The video shows a key moment at a memorial service for Chris Hixon, the athletic director at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018. Hixon had attempted to disarm the gunman who went on a shooting spree at the school, killing 17 people—including Hixon—and injuring 17 more.

Biden asked who Hixon's parents were as the clip begins, and is directed to his right. Hixon's wife introduces herself, and Biden says, "God love you." As he starts to walk away, a voice off-camera says something and Biden immediately turns around. The voice came from Hixon's son, Corey, and the moments that followed are what have people feeling all their feelings.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less
Library of Congress

When we think about the era of American slavery, many of us tend to think of it as the far distant past. While slavery doesn't exist as a formal institution today, there are people living who knew formerly enslaved black Americans first-hand. In the wide arc of history, the legal enslavement of people on U.S. soil is a recent occurrence—so recent, in fact, that we have voice recordings of interviews with people who lived it.

Keep Reading Show less

The English language is constantly evolving, and the faster the world changes, the faster our vocabulary changes. Some of us grew up in an age when a "wireless router" would have been assumed to be a power tool, not a way to get your laptop (which wasn't a thing when I was a kid) connected to the internet (which also wasn't a thing when I was a kid, at least not in people's homes).

It's interesting to step back and look at how much has changed just in our own lifetimes, which is why Merriam-Webster's Time Traveler tool is so fun to play with. All you do is choose a year, and it tells you what words first appeared in print that year.

For my birth year, the words "adult-onset diabetes," "playdate," and "ATM" showed up in print for the first time, and yes, that makes me feel ridiculously old.

It's also fun to plug in the years of different people's births to see how their generational differences might impact their perspectives. For example, let's take the birth years of the oldest and youngest members of Congress:

Keep Reading Show less