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Consumers Welcome CFPB Scrutiny of Bank Overdraft Practices

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CFPB Roundtable in New York addresses practices; advocates urge end to bank payday lending as well

By Charlene Crowell, NNPA Columnist –

(NNPA) When the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau visited New York City on February 22, a roundtable discussion with bankers and consumer advocates began a day of focused discussion of bank products that cost customers billions per year in unfair fees. In his opening remarks, CFPB Director Richard Cordray called for a “candid discussion” and noted how less than 10 percent of checking account customers bear the brunt of more than 80 percent of all overdraft fees charged by banks.

Director Cordray announced new a new initiative wherein the agency will examine the practice of reordering customer transactions to boost overdraft fees. CFPB will also look at disclosures and marketing, particularly with an eye toward impact on the low-income and young consumers.

Roundtable participant Rebecca Borne, senior policy counsel with the Center for Responsible Lending, advised that overdraft fees are the number one reason bank customers lose their checking accounts.

“We are so pleased that there is finally a regulator, the CFPB, whose primary responsibility and commitment is to ensuring that reasonable rules of the road are in place to reform harmful and reckless financial practices” said Borne. “Today’s typical bank overdraft practices remain in dire need of that reform.”

Sarah Ludwig, executive director of the New-York based Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project, drew a connection between costly overdraft fees and the emergence of bank payday loans. As lenders sat nearby, Ms. Ludwig presented a letter with signatures from more than 250 national, state and local organizations from across the country calling for immediate federal action to stop bank payday loans.

The list of supporters included representatives of religious, civil rights, labor, higher education, fair housing, consumers and community activists. Together, these organizations warned against the looming prospect of overdraft fees worsening consumer financial circumstances once bank payday loans are made. The letter and its full list of signers is available at: http://rspnsb.li/vdfUSO

In part the letter advised, “Ultimately, payday loans erode the assets of bank customers and, rather than promote savings, make checking accounts unsafe for many customers. They lead to uncollected debt, bank account closures, and greater numbers of unbanked Americans. All of these outcomes are inconsistent with consumer protection and harm the safety and soundness of financial institutions.”

The letter was also mailed to three other federal regulators: Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

Currently, Wells Fargo Bank, US Bank, Fifth Third Bank and Regions Bank use a system previously developed by storefront payday lenders. As banks market the loan as a short-term cash advance for checking account customers, the predatory product typically leads to a long-term cycle of high-cost debt – just like a storefront payday loan.

Banks offering payday loans repay themselves first. The entire loan and its accompanying fee are taken directly from the account as soon as a customer’s paycheck or benefits check is deposited. Typically, banks charge $10 per hundred borrowed; with an average loan of only 10 days, the annual percentage rate for bank payday loans is 365 percent. According to research the Center for Responsible Lending, bank payday borrowers are in debt an average 175 days of the year. Social Security recipients are especially vulnerable, making up one quarter of bank payday borrowers.

Once bank payday loans are repaid, the likelihood of accounts falling short of funds for regular purchases runs high for customers with little or no cushion in their checking accounts. With an average overdraft fee of $34, multiple fees can be charged to these customers without their knowledge – until after fees are assessed when a bank statement arrives.

The connection between bank payday and overdraft fees is akin to that of the knee bone’s connection to the leg bone – financially they affect the same consumer. No one needs or wants a product that devastates their finances and builds debt instead of wealth. Consumer lending shouldn’t make anyone financially crippled.

Charlene Crowell is a communications manager with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at: Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

Minority-Owned Networks Sign with Comcast

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By Ayana Jones, Special to the NNPA from the Philadelphia Tribune –

Comcast Corporation has announced agreements with four new minority-owned independent networks.

After evaluating more than 100 proposals, Comcast selected four networks — two of which are majority African American-owned, and two that are majority Hispanic American-owned and operated and programmed in English. The networks will be distributed on Comcast Cable systems between April 2012 and January 2014.

“We are thrilled to work with such talented individuals to launch these new networks that will bring exciting and fresh content to consumers,” said David L. Cohen, executive vice president, Comcast Corporation.

“Comcast is committed to delivering programming that reflects the interests of our customers, and we look forward to integrating these great networks into our rich programming lineup.”

The two networks in the African-American category are Aspire and REVOLT.

Spearheaded by NBA Hall of Famer and entrepreneur Earvin “Magic” Johnson in partnership with GMC TV, Aspire will deliver enlightening, entertaining and positive programming to African-American families, including movies, documentaries, short films, music, comedy, visual and performing arts, and faith and inspirational programs. The network will launch by summer 2012.

“Aspire will be a network that encourages and challenges African Americans to reach for their dreams and will appeal to all generations,” said Johnson.

“Aspire will celebrate our heritage, our groundbreaking achievements and the fearless talent that has shaped American culture. I’m most excited about Aspire creating opportunities for the new voices, new visions and the next generation of storytellers.”

Proposed by superstar entrepreneur Sean “Diddy” Combs and MTV veteran Andy Schuon, the REVOLT network is designed to have programming inspired by music and pop culture. The network, which launches in 2013, will include music videos, live performances, and music news and interviews, and will incorporate social media interaction for music artists and fans.

“REVOLT is the first channel created entirely from the ground up in this new era of social media,” said Combs.

“We’re building this platform for artists to reach an extraordinary number of people in a completely different way. REVOLT will be live, like all great moments in television history. REVOLT will also be immediate, like today’s social networks. We know it was a highly competitive process and we want to thank Comcast for this opportunity to truly change television with REVOLT.”

The two networks in the Hispanic category are El Rey and BabyFirst Americas.

Proposed by Hollywood director Robert Rodriguez and FactoryMade Ventures executives John Fogelman and Cristina Patwa, El Ray is designed to be an action-packed, general information network in English for Latino and general audiences that includes a mix of reality, scripted and animated series, movies, documentaries, news, music, comedy and sports programming.

The El Ray network will include programming that features Hispanic producers, celebrities and public figures. The network has entered into an agreement to launch by January 2014.

“This partnership with Comcast signals an important moment for the Latino community in this country — we are passionate about creating a wildly entertaining destination that we can be proud of by appealing to both Latino and mass market audiences,” said the principals of El Rey.

“We are engineering El Rey to address a burgeoning opportunity to deliver unique, high-quality and compelling content to a hard-to-reach demographic, and are excited to bring more opportunities to generations of talent, storytellers and dreamers through this special partnership.”

Proposed by Spanish language television veteran Constantino “Said” Schwarz, this network is designed for infants, very young children and their parents and emphasizes the importance of early development of verbal, math and motor skills. The network will launch by April 2012.

“We are thrilled to partner with Comcast and commend them for recognizing the importance of quality education for young children,” said Schwarz.

“BabyFirst Americas aims to bring the essential academic building blocks for kindergarten readiness into the home, making it accessible for families all across the U.S.

In 2011, Comcast made a series of public interest commitments in connection with the NBCUniversal transaction, one of which is to launch 10 new independently owned and operated networks over the next eight years.

Of the 10 channels, four will be majority African American-owned, two will be majority Hispanic-owned and two will be operated by American Latino programmers. These criteria were established based on several agreements Comcast entered into with leading diversity organizations.

Each of the 10 networks will be added on select Comcast systems as part of the digital tier of service.

NAACP National President Stresses Need For Adult Action To Help Children

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African American Network at FedEx delivers with mentoring-power forum

By Tarrin McGhee, Special to the NNPA from the Tri-State Defender –

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The African American Network at FedEx is determined to give back to the community by impacting young lives through mentorship. That commitment was the underpinning for “The Power of Mentoring Forum” the group recently hosted at FedEx World Headquarters.

The annual event is designed to increase cultural awareness, and to encourage FedEx employees and event attendees to learn more about the power of mentoring.

Benjamin Jealous, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), keynoted the 2012 forum (Feb. 22), which saluted four heavyweights for enriching the lives of youth, and for notable public service achievements.

Posthumous salutes went to former University of Memphis basketball star player and coach, Larry Finch, and to Lt. Colonel Luke Weathers, a Memphis-born member of the Tuskegee Airmen whose exploits are detailed in the movie “Red Tails.”

Memphis civil rights activists and icons, Dr. Maxine Smith and the Rev. Samuel Kyles, were lauded for their consistent involvement and commitment to advance the civil rights movement and their local community.

The NAACP’s 17th president and chief executive officer, Jealous is the youngest person to hold the position in the organization’s100-plus year history. He reminded forum guests of the long and hard road traveled by those before him to ensure that African Americans of his generation and future generations would have opportunities to succeed. He also discussed what it would take for children in the U.S. to prosper in the 21st century.

“It’s possible to get what you’re fighting for and lose what you have all at the same time,” Jealous began. “When I was growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, my generation was treated like a bit of an exception. We were told that fighting was optional…your job is simply to reap what we have sown.

“That worked pretty well for many of us, it’s worked pretty well for me, but I dare say it didn’t work well for most of us,” he said.

Jealous described the important roles that all adults and mentors can play in helping to confront the challenges of war, crime, poverty, incarceration rates and, most importantly, the condition of the nation’s economy and education system.

“The state of affairs (in the U.S.) has real bearing on our role as parents, as adults, community leaders and as mentors,” Jealous said.

“Mentoring isn’t just about passing on lessons to children, it’s about fulfilling your responsibility as an adult in this country to make sure that the country you leave them is better than the one that you inherited. We have done that for generations in this country, in some ways it defines what it means to be a citizen of this United States.”

Jealous expressed concern about what awaits children if adults don’t take action to get involved now to protect the interests of all children.

“Our young people may be the first to be born more in debt than our parents were. They may be the first to be born with less net worth than their parents had, may be first to be born more likely to go to prison than their parents were, and less likely to go to college,” he said.

“Our responsibility right now is greater because the challenges are higher too.”

According to Jealous, outside of mentoring there are additional opportunities to address the challenges that children in America are confronting, opportunities to prevent roadblocks to children’s success, and ultimately the country’s success. To start, he believes that adults should be willing to talk about things that they don’t want to talk about, such as decreasing incarceration rates and the need to improve the country’s education system.

“We as a society have to make a choice to invest more in our aspirations for our children than our fears of other people’s children,” said Jealous.

“People ask how do we catch up, how do we bridge the (education) difference with us (the United States) and Japan? It’s simple. Just stop acting like we can afford to be so different,” he said. “Japan educates their children 230 days a year. In this country we’re lucky if it’s 180.”

Asked how to get adults to recognize the importance of doing what is right for all children and looking beyond what they need to do for their own, Jealous said that a big part of it is changing how we talk about education.

“The reality is that the biggest struggle in our country right now isn’t to make sure that black children can compete with white children, but that American children of all colors can compete with children of all colors from all countries on the planet. That’s what we have to get focused on,” he said.

Jealous concluded his keynote by sharing the NAACP’s plans to introduce an agenda this year that will focus on putting America back on track to being first in the world on issues of education, job creation and innovation. The agenda includes four main pillars that the organization will advocate for starting this spring: more time in the classroom, high quality teachers in every classroom, universal Pre-K and improving public health conditions for children across America.

Jury Convicts Dennis Mahon, Frees Twin in Scottsdale Bombing

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Lack of Hate Crime Leaves Victims Puzzled

By Floyd Alvin Galloway, Special to the NNPA from the Arizona Informant –

“It’s a mixed bag,” said Don Logan following the verdict in the 2004 mail bombing of his office, which injured him and two co-workers. Logan was bewildered by the jurors decision that the attack wasn’t a hate crime. “I can’t understand why they chose not to include race as a factor in the case. This was a hallmark case as a hate crime.”

Logan said he would move on. The emotionally and physically exhausting ordeal’s end was a relieve to Logan and his family. This has not deterred him in his work of promoting diversity and tolerance. “This proofs there is much work still needed in this state and country. You would think in 2012 we would have moved passed issues like this because of a person’s race. To attack a person simply because they are a different color is proof there is still a problem in this country,” said Logan following the verdict.

“I appreciate the guilty verdict for Dennis Mahon but I’m disappointed with the jury’s position that there wasn’t enough evidence to treat this attack as a hate crime,” a puzzled Logan noted.

Logan, 56, African American, was Scottsdale’s former diversity and dialogue director and his secretary were injured in the blast. Logan suffered hand and arm injuries when he opened the package in his office. The way he opened the package is credited with saving his life and the life of others.

After several years of delays in the case, an all white jury heard testimony in the trial that lasted six weeks. Judge Donald Campbell removed one juror for violating his instructions of not talking about the case during the trial.

The twin brothers were arrested in 2009 on their parent’s farm just outside of Rockford, Ill., on suspicion of conspiracy to damage buildings and property by means of explosives. Daniel was found not guilty of the charge.

As Daniel celebrated with his attorneys as his verdict was read, his brother looked solemnly and sternly at the jurors following his verdict. The two brothers hugged as they were escorted from the room by marshals.

Dennis also received additional charges of malicious damage of a building by means of explosive and distribution of information related to explosives. The Mahons are suspected members of W.A.R., White Aryan Resistance, an organization headed by white supremacist Tom Metzger.

“I believe in justice so much,.. it will be ok,” said Logan’s mother, to her son to comfort him. Surrounded by his wife, mother, friends and former co-workers, Logan noticeablelly upset by part of the jury’s decision stated, “this was a textbook case for a hate crime.”

Logan was appreciative of the job done by the U.S. attorneys prosecuting the case. “I should be hugging you for the great job you did,” Logan told Assistant U.S. Attorney John Boyle

Boyle was also surprised by the jury’s conclusion that the attack was not a hate crime, he was congratulatory of the jury’s dedication. “I’m appreciative to the jury and the six weeks they devoted to hear the case and the three days they spent deliberating on the verdict.”

Asked why he felt the jury didn’t see race as a factor in the attack, Boyle had no comment.

Bill Straus, regional director of the Arizona Anti-Defamation League and a friend of Logan, was also shocked the jury didn’t convict Daniel and race was not a factor. “It’s hard to believe they didn’t factor race in their decision,” said Straus.

Dennis Mahon is scheduled to be sentenced on May 22. He faces up to 100 years in jail and fines of up to $500,000.

Verizon Celebrates Black History Month

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By Kelsie Bonaparte, Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News –

Verizon Wireless is celebrating Black History Month with education, positivity and prizes. Verizon Wireless, provider of America’s 4G LTE network, has initiated “A Day in the Life of a History Maker” for high school students.

The program is in partnership with UNCF, Get Schooled and Teacher Planet.

“Verizon Wireless is committed to the African-American segment and we love celebrating Black History Month with the community,” said Fernando Molinar, director of multicultural marketing at Verizon Wireless.

The program was designed to motivate and inspire high school students across the New York metropolitan region by teaming up with today’s most powerful African- American history makers.

“Yes, it’s about celebrating the past, but it’s also modern-day… [there are] a lot of key African- American history makers now. We wanted it to be relevant for the students,” said Molinar.

On Valentine’s Day, Terrence J, co-host of BET’s show “106 and Park,” visited the Verizon Wireless Harlem store to meet and take photos with students in the community. “It’s very important to celebrate Black history.

I think when you look at from where we have come as a race, it’s very admirable and we have a long way to go. When you have programs like this and big companies like Verizon that want to support it, I think it’s important that we come out to support our communities.”

Students who want to participate in the program are asked to submit a 500-word essay by March 31 to www.verizoninsider.com/blackhistory explaining how they plan to make history.

There will be five winners who will meet and spend a day in the life with Amber Riley, star of the hit TV series “Glee.”

Students can also nominate their high school and vote to win a visit from Riley until Feb. 29. The school with the most votes will win, and voting is unlimited.

“I think as people who are in the public spotlight, it’s very important to give back, anytime I can lend my talent to do something positive I always try to do that inspire others,” said Terrence J.

For more information on the contest, follow Verizon Wireless on Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr.

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