Friday, March 30, 2007

The Truth About Smiley Faces & Pink Meat

by Jim Hightower

How Walmart is contributing to Third World Development

The Secret Life of Pink Meat

Thanks Jim !

It's Not For Oil

You may laugh, cry or just nod in agreement.

Jim Hightower explains why the US is in Iraq

Saturday, March 24, 2007

America, Maxed Out

Dear Readers,
If you never read another one of my posts please read this one and then share it with your friends and loved ones.   They may thank you for it for years.
You may be one of the fortunate and wise ones who has successfully managed your finances, lived within your means, never faced a catastrophic illness and was not sucked in by the illusion of "easy credit".  But if you're one of millions of Americans who are maxed out, it's not too late to put your financial house in order.  And if you're among the millions who feel that you've loss everything there is hope for the future.  Your life will not get better over night and it won't happen without employing something called "delayed gratification" and possibly "sacrifice".    But I promise you that you can achieve financial stability and enjoy an abundant life.   It's all about  understanding how the system works,  establishing spiritual and material balance and realizing that no matter what Madison Avenue tries to tell you, money does not buy happiness.

"All conditions and all circumstances in our lives are a result
of a certain level of thinking. When you want to change the
conditions and the circumstances, we have to change the level of
thinking that is responsible for it." -- Albert Einstein
So if you haven't changed your level of thinking about finances,  it's a good time to start.  Now let's face the hard, cold facts together .....
excerpt from
America, Maxed Out
James Scurlock, Scribner. Posted March 24, 2007
Read the entire article at:

Hard times, easy credit and the era of predatory lenders
The federal government -- and the majority of Americans -- can no longer get by a single day without taking on additional debt.   And as more borrowing goes to simply pay off old debt, or to make interest payments, the new debt does little more than increase banking profits.

Eventually the higher levels of debt will lead to higher interest rates, which will lead to more debt, creating a cycle as vicious as it is inevitable.

Over the past generation, banks and credit card companies have made trillions of dollars of high-interest, unsecured debt available, and Americans have scooped it up.  Our incomes have risen an average of 1 percent in real terms, while our household debt has increased over 1,000 percent.   As a result, we no longer save.   We have no choice but to keep spending until our credit is exhausted and we own nothing.

As Marriner Eccles, the legendary Fed chairman during the Great Depression, noted, "The economy is like a poker game where only a few people control the chips and the other fellows must borrow to stay in the game.  But the moment the borrowing stops, the game is over."

How did we allow this to happen?

How could banks keep lending to people who can't afford to pay them back?

Doesn't that fly in the face of tradition, if not common sense?

Don't bank executives realize that they are sowing the seeds of their own destruction?   After all, when most Americans can no longer stay afloat, the banks will sink alongside them as they did back in Marriner Eccles' day.

The simple answer is that while the banking industry has gone through its most profound change since the Venetians invented modern finance hundreds of years ago, Americans have clung to old assumptions. In particular, we've continued to believe that banks wouldn't extend us credit unless we could handle it, and that banks want us to save.   Yet, the big banks realized more than a generation ago that they make far more money teaching us to spend than to save.  They've also learned that making money upfront, mostly in the form of fees, is a lot more fun than waiting for a revenue stream to trickle in.

The reason is simple: Fees can be booked as profits immediately; revenue streams take years.  This is why most mortgages, car loans, and even credit card receivables are bundled together and sold off, sometimes instantly, to Wall Street.

Enron executives didn't want to wait for their brilliant ideas to bear fruit. So, with the help of an accounting firm called Arthur Andersen, and the blessing of the S.E.C., they applied a short-term accounting rule called "mark-to-market" to long-term contracts, so that executives could decide how much a new business idea was worth, book it as immediate profit, and then collect a bonus on that profit -- all in the same quarter.   When these new businesses instead generated huge losses, executives turned to the world's largest banks to hide those losses -- for a fee.  Enron would "sell" the losses to a large bank before reporting its financial results, then buy them back afterward at a greater loss.  The bank collected a fee without taking a risk, the bankers got a bonus based on generating that fee, and, most important, the Enron execs rewarded themselves with huge bonuses based on phony -- but consistently growing -- profits.

Of course, mark-to-market guaranteed Enron's eventual failure.  But consider that the top ten CEOs in America now earn more than $100 million per year, and you realize how quickly short-term gimmicks can create vast fortunes.   The same gimmicks are now being applied to consumer debt.

Most mortgages, car loans, and credit card debt are packaged and sold off to investors at a profit within a short period of time, sometimes seconds.   Banks create an estimate of how much the credit card debt is worth and sell it to investors, pocketing a profit.

But there is an even greater misconception at work -- a misconception that debt is not what it used to be. That there is "good" debt, for example, and "bad" debt. Tune in to Suze Orman, for example, and she will tell you that a single number, your credit score, is the key to your financial future. But while a good credit score gets you better rates on your mortgage and credit cards, it also opens up the floodgates for more "good" -- i.e., cheap -- credit to pour into your life, and this credit does not usually remain good or cheap for too long. The idea that one should stay out of debt, period, is now considered unrealistic. After all, who lives without debt? The Unabomber, maybe?

After all, Americans have accepted the surfing lifestyle in all of its absurdities. We have watched advertisements that say, "Pay off your high credit card debts!" and we have called the 800 numbers and attached our homes to new loans in order to pay off our credit cards, then bragged to our friends that we are "debt free." We are encouraged to rent things we used to own -- including music and, paradoxically, the down payments on our homes. We have accepted this new bargain that we will never be out of debt as inevitable, preordained by the God of our choosing. We have forgotten the feeling of solid ground as we have taken on larger and more treacherous waves. We have ignored the greatest investor among us, Warren Buffett, who has derided our "sharecroppers society." He sounds old, cranky, and un-hip.

Until we wipe out. Until we lose our jobs, until we get divorced, until we discover that our health insurance doesn't cover thousands of dollars of "extras," until we lose our job or until our home doesn't appreciate at the anticipated rate. Until we can no longer surf. And then the "debt hell," as a consumer advocate I interviewed calls it, kicks in. The fees pile up. The interest rates increase. The bargain we accepted ceases to be a bargain. It becomes prohibitively expensive. We learn that we are not middle class at all. We are poor. We own nothing. And then, just maybe, we finally ask, "Well, how did we get here?"

Excerpted from Maxed Out by James D. Scurlock. Copyright © 2007 by James D. Scurlock. Reprinted by permission from Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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For other posts on this topic read:

Unscrupulous Credit Practices Under Examination

50 Good Things About Being Debt Free & 10 Steps To Help You Get There

Protecting Elderly Loved Ones From Fraud

New Research Confirms That Pricing Disparities Based On Race Is A Reality

SpendThrift Nation

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

From my archives

If you or someone you know has ever considered a payday loan to meet a sudden emergency, please read this first.   This summary only recaps approximately 50% of this article, please read the whole article. at:


The 'wild, wild west' in loans

August 15, 2004
BY CHERYL L. REED Staff Reporter


When Brenda Spinato's furnace went out on a freezing day in January 2001, she had two choices: Take out a two-week payday loan or borrow from her parents. Spinato was 29 years old and a fiercely independent single mother of three girls. "My pride was a little high," said Spinato as she looked around the immaculate living room of her brick ranch in River Grove. For a quick $1,000 cash loan, Spinato now owes $10,743 -- most of it interest that accumulated for more than three years at 521.43 percent annually. "I feel they waited so long to collect so that they could charge so much in interest," Spinato said.

A payday loan is a short-term loan for a small amount of money, usually $100 to $1,000, from a storefront lender. Borrowers submit a pay stub and a bank statement. The interest charged is an average of 512 percent in Illinois.

Spinato says she got better rates from a neighborhood gang-banger who once loaned her $700 and allowed her to pay it back over time. Street loans with illegal loan sharks in Chicago charge 2 to 5 percent a week, which is 104 to 260 percent annually.  Living paycheck to paycheck, Chicago's working class is stung with interest rates on payday loans ranging from 101 percent to 1,541 percent, a Chicago Sun-Times investigation shows.

Only Illinois and six other states allow payday lenders to charge whatever the market will bear. "We're the largest state that doesn't regulate this industry. It's the wild, wild west here," said Michele Latz, director of Illinois' Division of Financial Institutions, which oversees payday lenders.

The industry has fought the state's attempts to regulate it -- hiring former Gov. James R. Thompson to challenge the state's authority before the Illinois Supreme Court last year.  Even Supreme Court Justice Mary Ann McMorrow had to recuse herself; she owns an interest in currency exchanges where some payday loans are issued.  But Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan wants payday loan rates capped at 36 percent -- which payday lenders argue would drive them out of business in Illinois. "It's going to continue to be a battle, but at the end of the day, we're going to win," Madigan insists.

To recoup their high interest, payday lenders use the municipal courts as the ultimate bill collector.  They can pass judgments and garnishee wages.  Despite thousands of court judgments against defaulting borrowers, Illinois' payday loan industry contends large interest cases, such as Spinato's, are rare.

But the Sun-Times found dozens of big-dollar cases similar to Spinato's, including one in which a 61-year-old Chicago woman took out two $600 loans in 2000 from 10 Minute Payday Loans.  With 573.57 percent interest accruing over 18 months, the woman's final bill came to $11,789.  That case, says Bob Wolfberg, president of the Illinois Small Loan Association, should never have happened.  "The president of the company was shocked," Wolfberg said.   As a result of the Sun-Times inquiry into the case, the attorney who pursued such high interest has been fired, Wolfberg said. 
They are short-term loans for small amounts," Wolfberg said.  "A payday loan is similar to using a taxi cab -- good for a short trip across town but not intended to take you to Orlando."  Most payday loans are paid back on time, says Wolfberg.  They serve a vital need for people requiring emergency cash before payday.

The payday lenders say they have to charge hefty finance fees to turn a profit.  Conventional banks have shied away from such low-dollar, short-term loans because their administrative costs make them unprofitable.  While some payday loan stores stop charging interest after the due date -- usually two weeks to 31 days -- Wolfberg's association is adamantly opposed to any law that would cap interest and limit loan amounts.

Another payday lender association favors restrictive laws.  "We believe a payday loan should be a good loan on the front end," said Tony Colletti, spokesman for the Consumer Financial Services Association, which has been working with community groups to draft a law.  "You should not try to make your money on the collection side through triple damages or attorneys fees or interest building up."

Despite opposition to the payday industry that included an influential Catholic priest, legislation to regulate the industry has only met defeat.  "I don't have enough fingers or toes to give you all the lobbyists, but it's a $2.4 billion industry," says state Sen.  Schoenberg plans this fall to introduce -- for the third time -- a bill that would curb what he sees as predatory practices.  "Payday loans exploit people's financial vulnerability and suck them deeper into a whirlpool of debt that they cannot extricate themselves from," Schoenberg said.

At least one Chicago municipal judge has ruled that payday loan interest is "unconscionable" and "obscene."  He's ordered the court not to enforce the accrued interest.  "Only Tony Soprano gets interest rates like that," Judge Wayne Rhine said in court.  Four years after his decision, Rhine remains adamant: "These payday loan folks are predator loan people," he told the Sun-Times.

"You have to be very very desperate to go to them -- so desperate that you'll sign anything to get the money.  Usually it's someone who is facing perhaps an eviction, a medical bill or an emergency where the need for cash is urgent and they have no other place to turn."

Such was the case for Amy Peters, who in December 2000 took out a loan for $300 after she had an emergency appendectomy and had missed work as an office temp.  Peters was overwhelmed with hospital bills, and her check to E Z Payday Loan in Crystal Lake bounced.  Three months later, the store sued her, charging three times the amount of the check -- which is allowed by law -- plus attorney fees.  "It's like they are legalized loan sharks," said Peters, a 27-year-old single mother who lives in Wonder Lake.  "It was the worst mistake of my life."

Mark Maksymowicz, a 39-year-old father of three girls, says his ability to pay back two $600 loans at 1,541.11 percent interest was complicated by his wife Wendy's illness.  She died of a brain tumor last November.  "I was missing work left and right," he said.  He contends he made payments but they were never credited to his account.
The Payday Loan Store is suing Maksymowicz for $2,010.

Despite the industry's claims, Judge Rhine says payday loans have a high default rate.  He and other Chicago municipal judges typically knock off interest over 100 percent. With an annual caseload of 66,000 cases, some payday cases get by, like Spinato's, which came before Rhine in May. "That one must have snuck past me," Rhine said with regret.  "The interest should have been knocked off.  If I had been aware of it, it would not have gotten through."  In July, she filed for bankruptcy court protection from creditors to save her house. She now has to work out a repayment schedule with the loan store.

Spinato insists she tried to pay back the loan after her check bounced in 2001, but she was told she would hear from the store's attorney.  Over the years, Spinato admits she received numerous phone calls from collectors, but in each case, she says, they demanded payment in full, which kept going up because the interest kept accruing.

Michael Greene, the bill collector in charge of Spinato's case, details a different scenario. He says Spinato's collection file shows that she agreed numerous times to repayment plans she didn't fulfill.  "But she never kept her word on at least six conversations with my agency.  He added: "I don't think payday loans are lily white either.

Rochelle, a 40-year-old legal secretary who lives in Glen Ellyn, compared her payday loan to a "death sentence."
"It's like you have to cut off your right leg.  They'll stop at nothing," said the mother of two teenagers.  Just before Thanksgiving in 2000, Rochelle took out an installment loan from a Payday Loan Corp. store in downtown Chicago.
Rochelle made two payments and then she says she lost her job.  This spring, Payday Loan Corp. took Rochelle to court. 
The judge ordered her to pay $3,477, most of it interest, and garnisheed her wages.

Even when the interest stops after six months -- as some contracts stipulate -- the amount can clobber those who live paycheck to paycheck, as most payday clients do.

Edina, a 26-year-old customer service representative and mother of one, became stretched with bills in 2002.
She took out six loans from several Americash stores totaling $1,500.  "I kept trying to pay off a little at a time, and they aren't interested in you paying anything unless you pay the whole amount."  After six months, the interest had accrued to $3,954.   Americash -- the most aggressive pursuer of defaulted loans in Chicago -- took Edina to court and was awarded a judgment of $6,029.  Paying 15 percent of each paycheck, it will take her a year and a half to pay off the judgment.

Half of all bankruptcies involve payday loans, claims bankruptcy attorney Melvin Kaplan.  "Payday loan stores aren't interested in working out payment plans," he said.

Since 1995, Chicago mail handler John Gray has filed for bankruptcy protection three times after falling behind in payday loans.

Originally posted to Pam's Coffee Conversation at 8/17/2004 06:06:43 PM

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Save Up Beforehand, Negotiate With Creditors, And Lay Off the Charge Cards

Newsday; 4/10/1994; Christina Dugas

NEW YORK MAYOR RUDOLPH Giuliani recently announced he is cutting 7,600 city jobs. NYNEX is laying off 16,800 employees over three years. AT&T  is eliminating 15,000 jobs over the next two years. The list goes on and on. If you fall victim to the next wave of layoffs, how will you pay your bills until you find a new job?

Few people are prepared for such an event. In addition to the financial strain, getting laid off is demoralizing and disorienting. Some people compound the problem by refusing to face up to the seriousness of the situation.

The best thing to do, experts say, is to go on the offensive. Find out what you can do to take control of your finances. Above all, don't wait for the bill collectors to come pounding on your door. Keep in mind that it is often possible to anticipate getting laid off. Rumors of corporate downsizing often precede the actual announcement. You can also assume that if your company is losing money, it might have to downsize at some point. When you see warning signs, don't wait to get a pink slip to begin developing a survival plan.

Everyone should have an emergency fund. If you have time to prepare for getting laid off, make sure that your contingency fund equals three to six months of living expenses and that you keep it in a safe, easily accessible account. Then you can use the fund to supplement any severance package or unemployment benefits.

If you and your spouse or companion both work, it's a good idea to arrange your budget so that you can afford to live on one income if the other person is out of work for a long time, says Larry Elkin, a financial planner in Hastings-on-Hudson. "I call this jobless insurance," he says.

Losing a job always hurts, but it really becomes a crisis for people who have been living beyond their means. When the money stops coming in, you have to be prepared to cut back on your spending, says Paul Richard, vice president of the National Center for Financial Education, a nonprofit organization. "The biggest mistake people make when their income is interrupted is instead of reducing their standard of living, they try to maintain it on credit cards," he says.

Some basic strategies for coping with a job loss:

Start by listing any income you'll still have coming in. Then make a list of your normal monthly expenses. Next, figure out how you can reduce those expenses. Richard suggests cutting back on entertainment.  "Do more things that are free and home-oriented," he says. "And do things yourself that you would normally pay others to do, such as lawn service or laundry or cleaning."

Other stopgap measures include holding a garage sale and selling your second car. Consider selling other assets, such as a boat and using the proceeds to reduce your debt burden.

Don't go overboard in eliminating everything that helps you relax and give you pleasure, however. For example, it's probably a good idea to maintain your health club membership if you're not going into debt to do so. Exercise can help you feel better about yourself. "Emotional wellness is very important when you're job hunting," Richard says.

Don't do anything to dig yourself deeper into debt. "Do not charge anything," says Gail Liberman, co-author of "Improving Your Credit and Reducing Your Debt." "Pay for everything with cash."

This is not the time to try to pay off your credit card bills. "I usually don't recommend making [only] the minimum payments, but this is one case in which you may need to, just to keep afloat," says Gerri Detweiler, author of "The Ultimate Credit Handbook."

Prioritize your debts. Some bills are essential, such as rent and mortgage payments, utility bills, car payments and unpaid taxes, says Robin Leonard, author of "Money Troubles: Legal Strategies to Cope with Your Debt." Others, such as the hardware store bill, are nonessential.

Even if you consider a bill nonessential, don't stop paying altogether. Always try to make a small payment toward the bill so that you can avoid hurting your credit record.

Let your creditors know if you are having trouble paying the bills. Believe it or not, most lenders will appreciate it if you disclose your financial problems so that they don't have to chase you down for the money later on. If you have a good record with them and show them you're making every effort to pay them back, they may be lenient with you. They may allow you to temporarily suspend your payments, or allow you to pay only the interest for a while. They even may cut your interest rate if it is higher than the going rate.

Arrange to meet with a loan officer to discuss your mortgage payments, for example. Come prepared to show how you are reducing your spending, Elkin says. And come with a specific idea of what they can do to help you get through this period. "Walk in and say, 'We have a problem and here is how I think I can solve it,'" he says. And if the bank official is unbending, don't give up. Go to a higher level. Start with a loan officer and after that, if necessary, contact a vice president.  Many loans are secured. That means if you are delinquent on your payments, the creditor can seize the property that is designated as the collateral, including your house or your car. But remember, lenders don't always want to seize your property. Banks are in the business of making loans; most don't want the headaches of managing real estate, and too much of it looks bad on the balance sheets they give to regulators and investors. So they may prefer to help you work things out.

If you owe money on a consumer product you bought, the creditor also may prefer to make a deal, Elkin says. That's because if you end up filing for bankruptcy protection, they may get stuck with the entire bill.  After you negotiate a repayment plan with a creditor, remember to ask them not to report you to a credit bureau, Detweiler says. The goal is to work out a plan to pay back your creditors and keep your credit record intact.

While you are looking for a new job, find ways to increase your cash flow. An obvious suggestion, Richard says, is to get a part-time job to help make up for the shortfall.  Consider borrowing from a family member. Unless it is an outright gift, however, think of it like any other debt obligation and draw up a schedule for repaying the money.  If you're the one making the loan, make sure you're really helping your relative through a tough period and not just subsidizing a lifestyle that the person can't afford.

Another option is to borrow from your 401(k) plan at work, assuming you have one and that it allows loans. True, you have to pay the loan back with interest, but it's not so bad because the money goes to you.

Under certain circumstances, you may want to tap into your home equity. One advantage of a home equity loan is that the interest is tax deductible. But these loans and lines of credit are inherently dangerous because you can lose your home if you can't make the payments. Many experts say you should only resort to one if you truly have a temporary cash-flow problem.

Don't cash in your retirement plan unless you have exhausted all other options and are totally out of money. For one thing, you will have to pay taxes and stiff penalties if you are withdrawing the money before age 59 ½. Remember, if you cash in your retirement accounts to help you get through a temporary problem, you are jeopardizing your long-term future.

If you're having trouble finding a new job, be sure to consider all the possibilities. Elkin believes that too many people in this situation are reluctant to follow the jobs to other cities. "I wonder how many unemployed construction workers sat out the construction boom in South Florida after the hurricane," he says.

Even though you are out of work and are experiencing financial difficulties, remember that you have rights. Many times a creditor will pass an overdue bill to a collection agency. If that agency then begins to call you and constantly badger you for the money, you have the legal right to tell them to leave you alone, Leonard says. Tell them orally to stop bothering you and then get their address and the name of a contact person and send them a letter to that effect.  After that, they can tell you only that their collection efforts have ended or that they are going to sue you for the money.

Leonard also suggests that if you are contacted by a collection agency, try to get the original creditor to take back the bill and negotiate a repayment schedule with you. "Usually they will give you more room to maneuver than a collection agency," she says. And if you work things out directly with the original lender, there is a greater chance that they will extend credit to you in the future.

If you lack discipline or become depressed and overwhelmed by the burden of looking for a job and trying to pay the bills, you may need professional help. Consider contacting one of the more than 850 nonprofit Consumer Credit Counseling Service offices around the country.  Locally, there are Budget and Credit Counseling Services offices in Manhattan and Melville. These services will help you develop a budget and a repayment plan. You can also take advantage of a plan they offer in which they will negotiate the repayment plan with your creditors. Then you make one monthly payment to the counseling service and they pay your bills and deal with creditors. There is an initial consultation fee and a monthly fee for the payment service. You also should know that if you use a counseling service's repayment plan, it is likely to show up on your credit report.  So be sure to ask the counseling service how that will affect your ability to get credit in the future. But it might be worth it if it means no more calls in the middle of night from bill collectors. "The peace of mind alone may be well worth going to a counseling service," Detweiler says.
How to Survive a Credit Crunch

When the bills are due and money is tight, there are some strategies that can help with problem. As with all debt, it is important to contact your creditor if you believe you will soon fall behind on your payment schedule. Creditors may be willing to work out an extended payment schedule.

Mortgage: Your mortgage is an important bill—try to pay it first. Your mortgage may or may not appear on your credit report each month, but payment information will, in most cases, be reported to the bureaus if you become 90 days or more overdue on your payments.

Bankcards: Visa and MasterCard are the most valuable references on your credit report, so pay them on time, even if it is only the minimum monthly payment.

American Express: American Express cards must be paid in full each month. If you don't pay, you are considered late and that information will likely be reported to all the major credit bureaus.

Car Loans: You don't want to get behind on a car loan because in some states your car can be repossessed after you've missed only one payment. If your car is worth more than you currently owe on it, you may be able to refinance your loan with lower monthly payments. If not, your lender may agree to a temporary schedule of reduced payments.

Child Support: Delinquent child support can reflect very negatively on your creditworthiness. All child support payments $1,000 or more in arrears must be reported to credit bureaus if the credit bureau requests that type of information.

Taxes: The IRS can be extremely tough if you don't pay your taxes on time. If you are notified by the IRS that you owe past-due taxes, make every effort to pay them as quickly as possible. If you can't pay, contact the IRS to try to arrange a repayment schedule.

Medical Bills: Most medical bills are not reported to credit bureaus until they are sent to collections. It's likely that you can work out a modified payment schedule with the doctor or hospital. Be sure to
confirm any agreements in writing and ask for confirmation that smaller payments will not harm your credit rating.

Student Loans: Federal student loans may be deferred if you are having financial difficulties. If your loan is deferred, you will not be required to make any payments during the deferment period and no
interest will accrue during this period. Remember, though, that you cannot qualify for deferment if your student loan is in default.

Small Bills: Set aside small bills, such as those for magazine subscriptions, book clubs, or local accounts, but be sure to contact the creditor if you think the account will be turned over to collections.

SOURCE: "Guidelines for Juggling Your Bills from The Ultimate Credit
Handbook," by Gerri Detweiler


Know Your Rights!

Here's a sample letter to a collection agency to tell it to cease
contacting you:

Basnak Collection Service
49 Pirate Place
Topeka, Kansas 69000

November 11, 19

Attn: Marc Mist

Re: Lee Anne Ito
Account No. 98-90-92

Dear Mr. Mist:

For the past three months, I have received several phone call and
letters from you concerning my overdue Rich's Department Store account.
As I have informed you, I cannot pay this bill.

Accordingly, under 15 U.S.C. 1692c, this is my formal notice to you to
cease all further communications with me except for the reasons
specifically set forth in the federal law.

Very truly yours,

Lee Anne Ito

SOURCE: Money Troubles: Legal Strategies to Cope With Your Debts, by
Robin Leonard



For More Information on how to deal with a financial crisis:

"Money Troubles: Legal Strategies to Cope with Your Debts" by Robin
Leonard. Published by Nolo Press for $16.95. Call (800) 992-6656.

"Improving Your Credit and Reducing Your Debt" by Gail Liberman & Alan
Lavine. Published by John Wiley & Sons for $14.95. Call (800) 225-5945.
Budget and Credit Counseling Services: Call (212) 675-5070 in New York
City and (516) 293-3831 on Long Island.

How About You? Do you have an idea for getting fiscally fit? Call toll
free, (800) 288-3733, and leave a recorded message with your suggestion.
Or you may write to Christine Dugas at the address below.

Copyright 1994, Newsday Inc.

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Lastly, I'd like to offer this advice for persons of faith.   Whatever steps you take should be based on your spiritual beliefs.   For instance if you are a Christian that believes in the principle of tithing then any financial plan you take should account for the 10% tithe.   So, if you seek career, financial or emotional counseling look for someone who shares your spiritual values or at least honors them.  plk

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Important Announcement from John Edwards scheduled for Thursday 03/22

My heart and prayers are with John, Elizabeth and the entire Edwards family. 
John Edwards to discuss wife's health on Yahoo! News

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards accompanied his wife, Elizabeth, who has been treated for breast cancer, on a doctor's visit Wednesday. His campaign said they would hold a news conference in their hometown Thursday to discuss her health. Campaign officials refused to answer any questions about what the Edwardses learned at the doctor's appointment or how it might affect his candidacy.

Mrs. Edwards was diagnosed with breast cancer in the final days of the 2004 campaign, when her husband was the Democratic vice presidential nominee.

He announced the diagnosis the day after he and presidential nominee John Kerry lost the election.

Mrs. Edwards spoke about the death of her son and her cancer in an Associated Press interview last year.

"During the (2004) campaign, people who knew we had lost a son said, 'You are so strong,' and when I had breast cancer people would say, 'You are so strong,' and I thought, 'They don't know that there's a trick to being strong, and the trick is that nobody does it alone,'" she said.

"I wanted, from the perspective of someone going through it, not tell them what to do, but show them what great support I got."

Associated Press writer Mike Baker in Raleigh, N.C., contributed to this report.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Real State of The Union

Excerpt from
Analysis of the Attorney General Controversy;
Aired March 20, 2007 - 18:00 ET

Read the entire show transcript at:

DOBBS: Congressional Democrats rejected the White House's offer to allow those officials to talk about the firing of the attorneys not under oath. Democrats demand that current and former administration officials must testify under oath and in public. The White House offer of talks behind closed doors with no transcripts and not under oath, not satisfactory. Dana Bash reports from Capitol Hill -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Lou, just before the president came out into the Roosevelt Room and made that statement, we did get a formal statement from the Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, and he did flat out reject the White House proposal that came forward today on this whole issue of whether top Bush officials will testify. He said it's not constructive, and it's not helpful to be telling the Senate how to do our investigation. That came after back-to-back meetings. The president's top lawyer was here on Capitol Hill offer in hand.


BASH (voice-over): White House council Fred Fielding would not comment as he left a closed-door Capitol Hill meeting trying to navigate the crushing scene, but Democrats did.

REP. JOHN CONYERS (D), JUDICIARY CMTE: We are disappointed.

BASH: Clever but incomplete at best is how one top Democrat described the White House offer to make Karl Rove and other Bush aides available for a private interview, but not public testimony.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: It's sort of giving us the opportunity to talk to them, but not giving us the opportunity to get to the bottom of what really happened here.

BASH: Democrats say their biggest problems with the White House proposal are that Bush aides would not be under oath and there would be no transcript of their answers about why federal prosecutors were fired.

SCHUMER: And with no transcript, with no oath, with private conversations that can be contradicted, recollections can fail, you're not going to get very far.

BASH: The demand for Rove, former White House counsel Harriet Miers and their deputies to testify came from Democrats and Republicans. One senior GOP lawmaker came out of the meeting and said he thought the White House laid out a fair deal.

REP. CHRIS CANNON (R), UTAH: I'm a very zealous guardian of the prerogatives of Congress, but I expect the president to be a zealous guardian of the executive branch as well, and I think it's a great offer.


BASH: Now, Democrats say they are going to regroup, try to come up with a counter offer. In the meantime, Lou, tomorrow morning the House Judiciary Committee, they are expected to vote to authorize the chairman there to issue subpoenas. They'll do the same thing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. That just in case these negotiations collapse. That is exactly the kind of thing that the president just said that the Democrats should not go forward and do.

DOBBS: Well the president has said what the Democrats shouldn't do. The Democrats are saying what the president shouldn't do. At the end of the day, we know why those people were fired, because the e- mails reveal much of the story.

We also know that this president was hardly candid in his comments just a few moments ago talking about incomplete and confusing statements from the Justice Department. They were flat inaccurate, if not outright lies. So what is the point of this partisan nonsense?

# # # # # #

Excerpt from
Aired March 20, 2007 - 20:00 ET

Illiterate America

We were just stunned when we heard this: One-third of the people who live in Washington, D.C., the nation's capital, are functionally illiterate. That means they can't read and write English well enough to figure out bus schedules, or even look at maps, or even fill out job applications. It is a national embarrassment.

And it goes, unfortunately, well beyond the city of Washington.

Lisa Sylvester has more on the frightening price millions of Americans pay for failing to make the grade.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They are adults back in school again in Washington, D.C.

Shirley Ashley is 58 years old.

SHIRLEY ASHLEY, STUDENT: I could only read, like, small words, you know, like cat, bat, sat, you know? I wasn't a very good speller. And now I can read a whole paragraph.

SYLVESTER: In the United States, one out of every five adults is functionally illiterate, a total of 40 million, according to the National Coalition for Literacy. That means they cannot fill out a job application or understand the directions on a prescription drug bottle.

In the nation's capital, the numbers are even more disturbing. One out of every three adults falls into this category.

RITA DANIELS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LITERACY VOLUNTEERS: They come to us because they need help with filling out applications. They need help doing homework with their children and just maneuvering through day-to-day life.

SYLVESTER: Forty million falling through the cracks, that has enormous implications for the U.S. labor market. American workers are now forced to compete globally.

PETER WAITE, NATIONAL COALITION FOR LITERACY: Compared to many of our colleagues in Europe, particularly Scandinavian countries, for example, we are considerably below the literacy rates of those countries.

SYLVESTER: Illiteracy is high in the black and Hispanic communities. Two-thirds of those lacking basic language skills were born in the United States, and English is their native language. More than half of the functionally illiterate actually graduated from high school, even though they could not read the words on their diplomas.

WAITE: Students who do fall behind have an enormous ability to be able to fake and sneak their way through those cracks.

SYLVESTER: Many keep that secret in adulthood. Co-workers, friends, even spouses are not aware, making illiteracy one of America's hidden national problems.

(on camera): Those 40 million people have the lowest level of reading proficiency. But millions more are just getting by.

According to the National Institute for Literacy, only half of the U.S. adult population has reached what's called a level-three proficiency. That's what many state organization consider to be the minimum standard to be successful in today's labor market.

Lisa Sylvester, CNN, Washington.

No One is Protesting Black on Black Crime

ZAHN: "Out in the Open" tonight, the shocking amount of black- on-black violent crime in the U.S. It is something we rarely hear about. Back to our "Out in the Open" panel now. Amy Holmes, Republican political strategist. CNN contributor Roland Martin. And Air America radio host Rachel Maddow.

As a black man when you hear that 93 percent of black murder victims are killed by other blacks, do you think that blacks are their own worst victims? MARTIN: Yes. and they are doing the work of the Klan. That's exactly what's going on here. And let me deal with this -- with Reverend Sharpton's comment for a second. So let me take the CNN contributor hat off for a moment. I've been the editor of three black newspapers, the editor of a black Web site, commentator for a black cable network, and I've also been the editor of a black magazine.

And I have not covered a single rally where 50,000 African- Americans were protesting on black-on-black crime. See, when you talk about protesting against police brutality, that's an easy one, that's an institutional system there where you have white officers, black victim, let's protest.

African-Americans must stand up and be accountable and on my radio show on WVON, every time somebody black gets killed, we talk about it and I say when is enough enough? They are doing the work of the Klan. And they might as well own up to it. This is worse than what happened with lynching.

ZAHN: Why are you upset with what Sharpton had to say?

MARTIN: Well, because you're shifting the blame. Again, I want to see...

ZAHN: And that is when he placed the focus on police brutality.

MARTIN: Yes. Now he is correct that there are community leaders out there on a small scale who are doing what they're doing. But again, I want to know where are they in terms of calling for those marches, calling for mass mobilization to cut the crime in black neighborhoods.

Stop saying, well, the media doesn't cover it, no, most of them don't do it. If you have 50,000 black folks marching against black- on-black crime, trust me, the media will be there.

ZAHN: Well, why aren't they? Is it the embarrassment, the humiliation?

HOLMES: I think it's a number of factors. And first, I want to tell you, it's so good to hear you talking about this "Out in the Open." And I think there has been a conspiracy of silence around it. There's fear obviously of sort of airing the dirty laundry, Remember when Bill Cosby, you know, gave a very candid speech and he was jumped all over by black leaders saying that you shouldn't be telling white America what's going on in our communities.

But we can't solve the problem if we don't identify it in the first place. And that is what Roland is talking about here. I think it also plays on this sense of white guilt, that white reporters and journalists are much more comfortable reporting on what they consider civil rights cases than what's going on in the inner city with black- on-black crime.

MADDOW: But how did Al Sharpton become the bad guy in this story? Al Sharpton is not saying I'm in favor of black-on-black violence, or I don't see a problem with it, what he's being taken to task for is organizing against stuff that isn't that, too. I mean, this doesn't make me any less mad about Sean Bell being shot in New York City. I mean, this not a situation where it is a zero sum of outrage, that we all have to get some out of.

MARTIN: Rachel, it is called, what is equal. And ask somebody who has worked in the black press for more years than I have worked in mainstream, it offends me when African-Americans will get angry at police brutality and not equally as angry at black-on-black crime. Trust me, there is no difference, somebody is dead.

And so I'm not -- the criticism is not in terms of Sharpton protesting police brutality. What I'm saying is what is the value of a black life? Is the value of a black life greater when a cop takes it or is the value of a black life greater when somebody else, African-American, takes it?

They have to stand up and say, enough is enough. And so you have to have the anger but not just that, say, how are we going to deal with it? Are we going to go into the communities and say, hey, you don't want a snitch, turn him in, turn your cousin, turn Pookie, turn Junebug in who kills somebody else because they deserve their butts to be in jail as opposed to simply just passing it by and letting it go on.

ZAHN: Why are so many black men killing each other?

HOLMES: Well, we know that there is high crime rates in urban communities and then that crime is focused on the people who live there. So if you had high crime rates in a white community, it would be white-on-white crime. I think what we are talking about is moving towards solutions. And one of the solutions that was decried over and over by the black community was the Bush administration's attempt at faith-based outreach.

And we know from studies, James Q. Wilson at UCLA showed that a community faith-based outreach starting from the first families moving up is another way to tackle this.

MADDOW: Making churches part of the government is not getting at the problem here.

MARTIN: And not only that, in the black community, we have got lots of churches, but what we have is weak leadership. That's where it all begins. You have got to challenge people at the heart. So what I want to see National Action Network, Rainbow/PUSH, National Urban League, where are our black relief funds when it comes to turning people in, in terms of putting up rewards.

Don't just have corporate America do it, say, hey, a thousand bucks, turn this person in because we want to stop the crime. That is where it has to start.

HOLMES: Why would you be giving more power to these national organizations...


HOLMES: ... who are ignoring the problem?


MARTIN: I want them to stop the crime and if that is a we to do it, then go ahead and start it. Stop talking about it, and say, raise the money, let's stop it. But enough with all of this stuff criticizing them, let's get it done.

ZAHN: All right. Roland Martin, Rachael Maddow, Amy Holmes, thank you all.

# # # # # #
What is the US exporting these days?
and finally......

Picking Up Where Bin Laden Left Off

So the Bush administration is lying again. What else is new?

Is anyone really shocked about the latest scandal? If so, has he or she been living on this planet for the past six years?

The most disturbing acts in this greek tragedy known as the Bush Presidency have not been the actions of the Texas mafia but the inertia and lack of outrage of the American public at the destruction of democracy.

Yes a statement was made during last November's election but all that achieved was a Speaker of the House who insists that impeachment is off the table. If impeachment proceedings against Bush and Cheney are not initiated this year then I can only assume that people who still believe in the US Constitution have given up all hope. Or, maybe the vast majority of elected officials are among the one in every five Americans that is illiterate. Or maybe the majority of the American public is more concerned about Brittany Spears' breakdown, American Idol and Anna Nicole's baby's daddy.

On 9/11 Al Qaeda destroyed buildings, killed thousands of people and momentarily shook the heart of a nation. But in the days since 9/11 the Bush Adminstration with the acquiescence of the American public has daily attacked the soul of America and has done more to threaten our national security and destroy America's integrity than even Bin Laden could have ever dreamed.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Power of Thoughts

"All conditions and all circumstances in our lives are a result of a certain level of thinking. When you want to change the conditions and the circumstances, we have to change the level of thinking that is responsible for it." -- Albert Einstein

What amazes me most about all of the furor about "The Secret" is not the fact that people around the world are able to accept the concept of positively using the law of attraction to improve their lives but the fact that so many mental health professionals seem to want to dismiss the fact that a person can benefit by thinking positively. One therapist has even stated that he thinks the teachings of "The Secret" are dangerous because they ask a person to accept too much responsibility for what occurs in their lives. Obviously, I doubt that the individuals involved in teaching "The Secret" are suggesting that individuals are responsible for natural or manmade disasters. However, I can see how practicing the principles of "The Secret" can help an individual handle these types of events without being devastating and emotionally overwhelmed. How can that be dangerous?

Pamela Lyn

Philippians 4:8 (The Message)
The Message (MSG)

Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

You Have Laugh To Keep From Crying

cartoons courtesy of political

Not Just A Missed Opportunity

an excerpt from
A World of Difference in Power that Shuns Brawn for Supremacy
by Pierre Tristam
Published on Thursday, March 13, 2007 by the News-Journal (Daytona Beach, Fla.) 
Read the entire article at:

Browsing through a used bookstore the other day I picked up one of those old National Geographic issues with the pictures of doffed and frolicking natives. Except that the natives inside weren't the bouncy kind from Bali or Burundi but from countries we've come to know as breeders of anti-Americanism or out-and-out enmity: France, Spain, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, the kind of places where, if President Bush were to venture -- as he has been venturing through Latin America -- he'd be burned in effigy and local authorities would have to mobilize the equivalent of two military brigades to protect him. Colombia, the third-biggest recipient of American aid in the last decade and supposedly its greatest ally south of the Rio Grande, had to do just that for a Bush stop-over lasting a few hours on Sunday.

But the Geographic was dated May 1960. The 63 pages featuring all those countries fell under the banner of a single article entitled, "When the President Goes Abroad." And in every country, in almost every picture, Dwight Eisenhower's presence was cause for delirious celebration. It didn't matter where: Madrid, Kabul, Tehran, even Karachi, that now-seething Pakistani sweatshop of hatred for America. "From his open car," the Geographic wrote of a stop in Karachi, Eisenhower "waved to cheering Pathan tribesmen wearing baggy white trousers, long-tailed white shirts, and faded turbans." The car he traveled in was an open horse-drawn-carriage, slow and shadeless. Can you imagine Bush traveling in an open car anywhere anymore?
That very opportunity existed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, even in the Islamic world. Bush didn't just squander it. He trashed it, demolished American prestige and respect for a generation to come, and did so not by stupidity alone, but with in-your-face pride. His remaining supporters boast the same sense of supremacy fueled by missionary zealotry: Every anti-American protest is to them proof that America is on a virtuous mission. But there's nothing virtuous in these realities.

Evangelicals: US Lost Moral Focus in Terror Fight

"In a phone interview Monday, Cizik insisted the statement was not a critique of President George W. Bush and his administration.
He said the motivation was to send a message to the rest of the country and the world that evangelicals and other U.S. citizens do not support torture."
Now if only they would send a message that US citizens will not continue to vote for and support political leaders that ignore the will of the American people.  
Evangelicals: US Lost Moral Focus in Terror Fight
by Rachel Zoll

WASHINGTON -- The National Association of Evangelicals has endorsed an anti-torture statement saying the United States has crossed "boundaries of what is legally and morally permissible" in its treatment of detainees and war prisoners in the fight against terror.

Human rights violations committed in the name of preventing terrorist attacks have made the country look hypocritical to the Muslim world, the document states. Christians have an obligation rooted in Scripture to help Americans "regain our moral clarity."

"Our military and intelligence forces have worked diligently to prevent further attacks. But such efforts must not include measures that violate our own core values," the document says. "The United States historically has been a leader in supporting international human rights efforts, but our moral vision has blurred since 9/11."

The statement, "An Evangelical Declaration Against Torture: Protecting Human Rights in an Age of Terror," was drafted by 17 evangelical scholars, writers and activists who call themselves Evangelicals for Human Rights.

Several of the drafters have been advocates for a broader policy focus for Christian conservatives beyond abortion and marriage.

One of the co-authors, the Rev. Rich Cizik, the NAE's Washington, D.C., policy director, has drawn criticism from Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and others for his environmental activism.

In a phone interview Monday, Cizik insisted the statement was not a critique of President George W. Bush and his administration. He said the motivation was to send a message to the rest of the country and the world that evangelicals and other U.S. citizens do not support torture.

The authors praise the U.S. Army for last year releasing a revised field manual that bans beating, sexually humiliating and threatening prisoners, among other interrogation procedures.

But the evangelical writers criticize the Military Commissions Act, which Bush pushed through Congress last year to set up a Defense Department system for prosecuting terror suspects.

Quoting a wide range of sources including the Bible, Pope John Paul II, Elie Wiesel and theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, the authors say the federal government has a moral obligation to follow international human rights treaties that the U.S. has endorsed.

"As American Christians, we are above all motivated by a desire that our nation's actions would be consistent with foundational Christian moral norms," the document says.  "We believe that a scrupulous commitment to human rights, among which is the right not to be tortured, is one of these Christian moral convictions."

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


In Case You Missed It

News from The Progress Report
a publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund

President Bush's tenure has been a dark time for journalists. The administration has accused the media of aiding terrorists, declared that it has the power to prosecute journalists for publishing classified information, and consistently granted preferential treatment to right-wing outlets. The war in Iraq has made journalism more dangerous for reporters all over the world. Additionally, this administration "has restricted access to information about our government and its policies at unprecedented levels," classifying a record number of documents and withholding records that the public has a right to view under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which is approaching its 41st year in existence. In an age of blogging and citizen journalism, the American public's ability to access the federal government is more important than ever. Yet 69 percent of Americans believe that the government is too secretive. This week, Congress is debating several critical pieces of legislation that will increase government transparency. Take action and tell your Members of Congress to open the government.

TORTURE -- EVANGELICALS CONDEMN BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S USE OF TORTURE: The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), representing 45,00 churches and 30 million churchgoers, has released an anti-torture statement saying the United States has crossed "boundaries of what is legally and morally permissible in its treatment of detainees and war prisoners in the fight against terror." The statement said that "the United States has historically been a leader in supporting international human rights efforts, but our moral vision has blurred since 9/11." The NAE rejected the Military Commissions Act, which guts habeas corpus and allows testimony obtained from torture. The group condemned the use of torture tactics at "Abu Ghraib prison, Afghanistan's Bagram Air Base, in CIA black sites, and at the hands of other nations." Rev. Richard Cizik, the NAE's Washington policy director, said the motivation for the statement was to send a message worldwide that U.S. citizens and evangelicals do not support torture. "We are conservatives who wholeheartedly support the war against terror, but that does not mean by any means necessary," he stated. The board of the NAE also recently stood by its support for action to curb global warming.

“The White House was deeply involved in the decision late last year to dismiss federal prosecutors, including some who had been criticized by Republican lawmakers,” the New York Times reports. “Last October, President Bush spoke with Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to pass along concerns by Republicans” about several U.S. Attorneys. Weeks later, they were forced out.

In related news, Attorney General Gonzales’ chief of staff Kyle Sampson resigned yesterday in the wake of the U.S. Attorney scandal. Sampson was involved in generating the list of prosecutors to fire.

More questions about Halliburton’s move to Dubai. Senate Commerce Committee member Byron Dorgan (D-ND) asked yesterday, “I want to know, is Halliburton trying to run away from bad publicity on their contracts? Are they trying to run away from the obligation to pay U.S. taxes? Or are they trying to set up a corporate presence in Dubai so that they can avoid the restrictions that currently exist on doing business with prohibited countries like Iran?”

News of Scooter Libby’s guilty verdict has brought in $70,000 in Internet contributions in a week. Wealthy supporters like publisher Steve Forbes and lobbyist Wayne Berman plan to raise much more; actor Fred Thompson plans a Washington fundraiser that may bring in more than $100,000.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) introduced a resolution yesterday to allow Al Gore to stage a global-warming concert on the Capitol grounds. Gore’s Live Earth event will feature seven major concerts on seven continents to help bring attention to global climate change.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Unscrupulous Credit Practices Under Examination

"Wannemacher used a new Chase card in 2001 and 2002 to pay for expenses mostly related to his wedding.
He had $3,200 in purchases, interest charges of $4,900, 47 over-limit charges totaling $1,500, late fees of $1,100, for total charges of $10,700 as of February.
Richard Srednicki, the chief executive officer of Chase Card Services, apologized to Wannemacher in his testimony. "In this case, we simply blew it," he said."

The somewhat unscrupulous credit practices employed by most banking institutions is certainly no news to most American consumers. As I wrote in a post last August, if you are an average working class American the odds are that either you or someone you know is either quietly drowning in debt and/or is maxed out. Sadly, that's become the state of many middle-class Americans. Equally unfortunate are the often experienced feelings of shame, guilt, and failure and hopelessness that accompanies this financial situation. There is a stereotype that most middle-class persons that find themselves deeply in debt brought the situation on themselves by irresponsible behavior. However, more and more persons that tried to play by all the rules to achieve the American dream are finding that dream buried beneath a mountain of debt.

While everyone acknowledges that banks are in business to make money, it now it seems that their motto is to make money by any means necessary.

Enough is Enough! People need to know that they can get out of debt and live debt free. It is not easy and will not be without some pain, sacrifice and patience. Living debt free requires a major change in mind-set and an understanding of the system that is designed to promote indebtedness.

Pamela Lyn

Panel slams banks over credit practices on Yahoo! News
By MARCY GORDON, AP Business Writer
read the entire article at:

An Ohio man whose $3,200 credit card debt mushroomed to $10,700 with interest and fees told his story Wednesday to senators who denounced the industry for confusing billing practices and shifting interest rates.

Executives of three major banks defended their credit card practices as responsible and responsive to consumers' needs in testimony at the hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs' investigative subcommittee.

Those from Citigroup Inc. and Chase Bank USA said their companies were eliminating some practices --- including the one that hit Wesley Wannemacher of Lima, Ohio, with over-limit fees on his Chase card account 47 times although he went over his credit limit only three times.

The interest charges and fees on Wannemacher's account more than tripled his debt despite his having made payments averaging $1,000 a year over six years, noted Sen. Carl Levin D-Mich., the subcommittee's chairman. He said an investigation by the panel found that "sky-high interest charges and fees are not uncommon in the credit card industry.

While the Wannemacher account happened to be at Chase, penalty interest rates and fees are also employed by Bank of America, Citigroup and other major credit card issuers."

Richard Srednicki, the chief executive officer of Chase Card Services, apologized to Wannemacher in his testimony. "In this case, we simply blew it," he said. Srednicki said the company has decided it no longer will charge over-the-credit-limit fees to customers who have been in a chronic over-limit position for 90 days.

Wannemacher used a new Chase card in 2001 and 2002 to pay for expenses mostly related to his wedding. He had $3,200 in purchases, interest charges of $4,900, 47 over-limit charges totaling $1,500, late fees of $1,100, for total charges of $10,700 as of February. He paid $6,300, leaving a $4,400 balance --- which Chase agreed to waive after he contacted the subcommittee staff.

"Debt seems to invoke a feeling of hopelessness unlike any other problem I've encountered," Wannemacher testified at the hearing. "When a debtor calls you on the phone and you make a minimum payment, you know that you've made no real progress and that in a month, they will be calling again."

While the credit card practices in question are legal, Levin is threatening possible legislation to outlaw them as a spur to the banking industry for voluntary changes.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd and other Democratic senators challenged credit card executives at a hearing in January over rising late fees and other penalties and marketing practices they portrayed as predatory.

Citigroup, the nation's largest financial institution, announced last week that it was eliminating the practice of so-called universal default --- raising interest rates for card customers because of their failure to pay other creditors on time.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer

read the entire article at:

For more on this topic read:

50 Good Things About Being Debt Free & 10 Steps To Help You Get There

Protecting Elderly Loved Ones From Fraud

New Research Confirms That Pricing Disparities Based On Race Is A Reality

SpendThrift Nation

Monday, March 5, 2007

Democrats -- Be For Real

A word of advice to all of the Democrat candidates for President -- Be Yourselves, Be For Real. Let your records and your ideas speak for themselves.

I respect Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama not because one is a woman and not because one is African America but because I believe that they both have sound ideas for taking this country in the right direction. However, as I've publicly stated I am supporting John Edwards.

One of the main reasons that I support John is because the issues he addresses in Charleston, SC will be the same issues that he addresses in a speech in NYC and the same issues that he addresses in LA. And his southern accent is the real deal

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Here's Another Leap of Faith

After reviewing the candidates, I've decided to support former City Councilman Michael Nutter's campaign to become the next Mayor of Philadelphia.

Michael was a guest on 10NBC's "Live @ Issue" on February 18, 2007 and here are two videos from that broadcast

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Reflections on Sunrise

Look at this day as the sunrise of the life of your dreams!

"The vision that you glorify in your mind, the ideal that you enthrone in your heart – this you will build your life by, and this you will become." - James Lane Allen

" We must overcome the notion that we must be regular... it robs you of the chance to be extraordinary and leads you to the mediocre. " -- Uta Hagen

"Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to "jump at the Sun."We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off theground." -- Zora Neale Hurston (1903-1960) American Writer

" Man is so made that whenever anything fires his soul, impossibilities vanish." -- Jean de la Fontaine.

"Don't be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold / your own myth...."
-- Rumi

"You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you." -- Sarah Ban Breathnach ~ Simple Abundance

photos courtesy of iStockphoto & PhotosToGo