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"Tips To Improve Your Credit Score"

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Tina Robinson
In this competitive credit market, it’s all the more important to have a good credit score. Your credit score affects your candidacy for a loan and the interest rate and terms you receive on a loan Many lenders determine credit risk by reviewing your FICO® score, a credit score based on a mathematical formula developed by Fair Isaac and Company. FICO® scores range from a low of 300 to a high of 850. Consider these steps to help improve your score:

Know your score. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with your credit score. Under federal law, the three major credit reporting companies –

Equifax, Experian and TransUnion –are each required to provide one free credit report to consumers each year.  While the credit reports are free, keep in mind that you may need to request and pay a fee to obtain your actual credit score.

Pay bills promptly. According to myFICO.com, 35 percent of your credit score is based on your payment history.  The importance of making timely payments cannot be overstated.  Limit debt-to-credit available ratio.  Try not to use more than 30 percent of your available credit, as a higher percentage of debt can negatively impact your score.

Tina Robinson is a senior vice president and regional manager for Union Bank, N.A., a full-service commercial bank providing an array of financial services to individuals, small businesses, middle-market companies and major corporations. Visit www.unionbank.com for more information.

The Problem with Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

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Richard O. Jones
From the time a female is an adolescent until she’s a senior, there’s an ingrained impulse towards chastity even beyond several affairs and nuptial escapades. Males, on the other hand, are given the proverbial “Boys-will-be-Boys” pass, which might explain why more men are less emotionally connected to each intimate encounter. When I was a boy, during the 50s and 60s, I used to hear a popular nursery rhyme that perhaps helped set the respective genders on their moral course for life. The poem was called, “What are Little Boys Made of?” The lyrics were: What are little boys made of?” Snips and snails and puppy-dog tails, that’s what little boys are made of. What are little girls made of?  Sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of.”

The cute little poem perpetuated a double standard that made little girls and boys think of boys as dogs or doggish and little as angelic, which likely sent many unwed pregnant girls into the hands of abortionists lest she is demeaned or ostracized.  The sugar and spice and everything nice mindset lured females to quench and deny their sensuality most often while dating but sometimes even after marriage. Even in the Bible, referring to John 8:7, women apparently were held to a double standard, at least in the eyes of the scribes and Pharisees, because the men only brought the women caught in adultery before Jesus and quoted the law of stoning an adulterer. I still remember how embarrassing and morally damaging it was for girls if the word got out that they were not virgins. The mere rumor of a couple casual sexual encounters would label a girl a slut. However, the same rumors about a boy labeled him a playboy. After all, society rationalized, he’s made of snips and snails and puppy-dog tails.

The double standard is a lifetime albatross around the neck of women.  I’ve met and/or dated several senior women proud to proclaim their abstinence. Many still harbor their little girls’ mindset and, though often at the price of a sliver of emotional health, believe that they must abstain, or at least become hard-to-get, to remain socially acceptable.

Frankly, to me, this woman can’t handle a normal mature relationship without imposing superficial obstacles such as indefinitely postponing intimacy solely on moral grounds.  Very often women lean on their Christian values and biblical sex laws for confirmation. But more likely, some man or men had done her wrong; therefore, she’s now ultra sensitive and insecure about relationships.  Such a perspective is like me saying, “I’ve been walking for five years because my last car broke down… it hurt me so that I don’t trust cars.”

Having Christian values are encouraged, it’s a great way to live: however, there’s a biblical doctrine that no one is perfect and we all fall short to the glory of God; therefore, women should enjoy a healthy level of discretionary intimacy and give up on a couple other popular sins such as pride, envy, gluttony, anger, greed, sloth, and gossiping?

However, I find the nursery rhyme to be true, girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice but the problem is that sugar and spice is useless without a dessert to enrich.

"Change": A Year Later

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By Nicole C. Lee, NNPA Columnist –

What a difference a year makes. This time last year, I was sitting around my living room with a bunch of 30-something Black professionals eating Buffalo wings and checking off red states and blue states. Honestly, we were all a little shell shocked. Some of us had campaigned all over the country for Obama.

Others had just sat and watched in awe as history unfolded.

At 11 pm Eastern Standard Time, the west coast was called and Barack Obama was named the victor. We ran out of the house, celebrating with our neighbors.  We all poured onto the street as cars stopped and honked their horns. Some folks jumped on the hood of their cars.  Washington, DC partied in several locations until the wee hours of the morning.  Each one of us held both a collective promise and individual expectation of what this presidency would mean for us.  A year later, when I walk by the “Change We Can Believe In” poster, now mounted and framed in my hallway, I think about what that meant to me as an individual. It is only a year later that I more fully grasp how personal the belief was for so many. Yes, for some it was about Barack Obama, the personality. But for so many it was a vision of a different country, with improved priorities and ambitions. For many, the change meant universal health care and jobs.

For others it meant a close to the endless war in Iraq and a refreshed vision of American foreign policy. But no, in a year, we haven’t reached as far as many of us thought we would. That is the hard cold reality. Forces dedicated to maintaining the age-old power dynamics in our country refuse to give up without a fight. Many conservatives, from talk show pundits to the Louisiana justice of the peace, will only be happy if America stays exactly as it is. Corporations will continue to find ways to take money from decent hard working people under the guise of “free market democracy”. These battles will be long. They will be difficult and they will be personal. It is one thing to talk about change and joblessness; it is another to lose your job. It is one thing to talk about healthcare reform; it is another thing to be sick with no means to get better.  It is one thing to despise war; it is another to be a refugee or someone who has been repeatedly deployed to the battlefield.  And yet, despite these hard times, we are still called to the type of broad visionary action that we were a year ago.  Listening to the radio this past week, I have been saddened to hear good people despairing to the point they are turning on each other. One African-American man was talking about “illegal” immigrants and how they are taking jobs from Americans. He talked about his progressive vision of the future and yet he still found someone in a weaker, more vulnerable position to pick on. In our community, we can’t afford to believe those lies.  We can’t afford to sell out our undocumented brothers and sisters in the hope that a system that has despised us for centuries will despise them more. This is when believing in the change gets tough.  This is even when we must remind our President of the platform on which he ran anytime we feel his actions are not bold or strident enough.

The parties are over. It’s time to get back to work. We need to remember what that change was that we believed in so strongly one year ago. We must work together collectively, and not against needs of others. The pie is big enough for all of us; we are the ones who dream too small. We are the only ones who can make the change we believe in. 

Nicole C. Lee is the Executive Director of TransAfrica Forum.

What's Wrong With Riverside?

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By Pastor Lacy Sykes
Cross Word Christian Church

Pastor Sykes
On Wednesday November 4th a historic vote was cast in favor of the much-touted March Healthcare Development Project (MHD). The March Joint Powers Planning Commission (MJPPC) voted 6 to 2 in favor of the proposed development, with the City of Riverside casting the two dissenting votes. This project has the potential to bring high pay jobs to a highly depressed area.

So why did the City of Riverside vote no? What’s wrong with Riverside?

For those of you who are not familiar with the March Joint Powers Authority (MJPA), they are the governing body that has been tasked to “bring jobs” to the surrounding area, by reusing surplus land that was once owned and managed by the United States Air Force. They have 4400 acres under their umbrella with the bulk of that (3713 acres) located in the City of Riverside.

Getting a project approved is a two-step process. First the “Planning Commission” recommends approval of the project and then the “Commission” actually approves the project at a later meeting. The Planning Commission and the Commission consist of the same eight city and county officials.

Not if the City of Riverside has its way. The Riverside City Council is opposed to this project because it will benefit the City of Moreno Valley more than it will benefit the City of Riverside.

Riverside is the “Orange County” of the Inland Empire and they plan to keep it that way. If you don’t have a “Crest” attached to your neighborhood (Hillcrest, Woodcrest, Canyoncrest, or Orangecrest) you are not worthy to be included in the growth and prosperity that is coming to this area.

As I mentioned above, the City of Riverside cast 2 votes against the Healthcare project with Riverside City Council member Andy Melendrez voting against jobs, growth and prosperity.  Andy is looking out for what is best for the City of Riverside and not for what is best for the County of Riverside.

Councilman Melendrez would have us believe that he is concerned about the increased traffic the project would bring to the City of Moreno Valley.  Really? The MHD would be developed on 170 acres and yes, that would increase the traffic flow on Cactus and Alessandro Blvd heading into Moreno Valley.

My question is, where was the concern about traffic when the commissioners representing Riverside approved the Meridian Business Center Project? (MBC). The Meridian project consists of 1,290 acres west of the 215 freeway between Alessandro and Van Buren Blvd; in the Orangecrest area of Riverside.

What about the increased truck traffic on Van Buren and Alessandro Blvd in Riverside?

Why didn’t the commissioners representing Riverside vote against that project? Could it be because the project will benefit their city more so than Moreno Valley and Perris?

The Meridian Business Park will eventually bring much need tax dollars to Riverside, and as a resident of Riverside, I am not opposed to that.  What I am struggling with is, why is it okay for Riverside to benefit from jobs and growth but not the Moreno Valley/Perris communities?

We have 17% unemployment in this area when the national average is 10%.  As a pastor and community leader, I hear the cries of my congregation and guests who are seeking employment so they can live the so-called American dream. My ear is no different than the many pastors in Riverside, Moreno Valley, and Perris, who are serving their communities faithfully, with the hope that their elected officials will do the same.

Our hope is that the MJPC will vote yes on the project on November 18 and not be bullied by the City of Riverside.  Our hope is that Andy Melendrez will show up to vote on the 18th and not call in sick, or be otherwise unavailable for this historic vote that will once again put the Inland Empire on the map.

Councilman Melendrez is not to be vilified for his position. He has aspirations to be the Mayor of Riverside one day, and we wish him well. He is just following the wishes of his colleagues on the Riverside City Council.

The MJPA is tasked to bring jobs to this area. How could anybody vote against a project that will do just that?  What’s wrong with Riverside?

Hopefully nothing.

Real Health Care Reform Now

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Benjamin Todd Jealous, President of the NAACP
Over 880,000 African Americans died in just ten years in the 1990s because they lacked access to health insurance. That’s more people than could fit in Yankee Stadium 15 times.  Over eight million children in America still don’t have health insurance now.  It’s estimated that 45,000 people die every year because they have no health insurance.

People like Robert Floyd who had kidney cancer, lost sight in one eye and was having other eye problems.  While his wife had insurance, once the insurance company found out about his condition they raised the rate to $4,000 a month and said the policy couldn’t cover kidney or eye problems.  Because of his disability he can’t work and the family is now on a waiting list for a state program where they could buy coverage for about $370 a month. While he’s waiting he will get worse and he could die joining the thousands of others who have lost their lives.

The human toll is coupled by the financial cost.

When insurance companies rule, they have no competition and no impetus to lower costs or create access. Their job is to make money and we are their profit center. If we get too sick, the profits they make on us go down so they create all kinds of clauses to deny sick people coverage, keep premiums high and maximize their profits. The average salary for the CEOs of the top health insurance companies is over 14.7 million dollars.

That’s why we need a change. It’s not acceptable for people in the wealthiest country in the world to die because they can’t afford to see a doctor in time.

And now we have a chance to change it.

But it won’t happen without activism and our voice. President Obama cannot do it alone. Without us actively involved, the lobbyists’ money will win and health care reform will fail.

We are fighting for a strong public option in the current bills moving through Congress. It is the only measure in the bill that will assure real competition and keep health care affordable and accessible. It is a step forward in taking the profit out of the equation and allows people who cannot afford private health insurance and are not eligible to Medicaid to still have coverage.

A strong public option creates choice, competition and helps level the playing field for individuals and insurance companies. Think of the public option as the equivalent to the United States Postal Service, you are not forced to pay exorbitant costs for UPS or FedEx, because you have the option to send mail with a $.44 stamp.  The public option would do the same, offer an affordable alternative.

We all stand to benefit from changes being considered by Congress. Those of you who have health insurance stand to gain in the way of lower cost, better coverage and more choices. If sweeping reform is achieved, you will no longer have to foot the bill in higher premiums and prices to make up for the unpaid expenses of others.

Many in Congress would water the public option down or eliminate it all together. We have to say no. We have to say no more Robert Floyds. No more unnecessary deaths. No more insurance company domination.  That is why the NAACP has joined with the National Urban League, National Conference of Black Mayors, National Coalition for Civic Participation and the Black Leadership Forum and over 50 other civil rights groups to open up a war room in Washington DC. At our war room we are phone banking urging people to let their voice be heard, educating people on the health care reform bills and coordinating rallies with our communities around the country.

But it won’t happen without you.  Together we are the soldiers that have always made our country greater.  Whether we were fighting for voting rights or the desegregation of our schools, or to save an innocent man on death row..The difference between winning and losing was you. Raise your voice now. You can contact your congressional representative by calling 1-866-783-2462 or visit www.NAACP.org/880.

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