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November 29, 2009

Economy: Obama Wants Mortgage Firms to Reduce More Loan Payments

The Obama administration in a proactive move plans to announce a campaign on Monday, November 30 to pressure mortgage companies to reduce payments for many more troubled homeowners since the $75 billion taxpayer-financed effort aimed at slowing down foreclosures is stalling.

In an interview the Treasury Department’s Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions Michael Barr said: “The banks are not doing a good enough job. Some of the firms ought to be embarrassed, and they will be.”

In recent months even as lenders have accelerated the pace at which they are reducing mortgage payments for borrowers a vast majority of loans modified through the program remain in a trial stage lasting up to only five months but only a tiny fraction of loans have been made permanent.

Mr. Barr said the government would try to use shame as a corrective, publicly naming those institutions that move too slowly to permanently lower mortgage payments. The Treasury Department also will wait until reductions are permanent before paying cash incentives that it promised to mortgage companies that lower loan payments. “They’re not getting a penny from the federal government until they move forward,” Mr. Barr said.

Lawyers who defend homeowners against foreclosure insist that mortgage companies amass ridiculously profitable fees from long-term delinquencies and that is more beneficial to them than lowering mortgage payments to affordable levels. In October an oversight panel created by Congress reported that less than 2,000 of the 500,000 loan modifications being processed had become permanent under the Making Home Affordable program. When the Treasury releases new numbers next month, it is expected to report a disappointingly small number of permanent loan modifications, with estimates in the tens of thousands out of the more than 650,000 borrowers now in the program.

Even as our economy tries to find its footing the Treasury department is under pressure to help every day Americans who should have been helped by the banks and financial institutions who benefited from the bailouts on Wall Street.  These financial institutions seem not to feel that they have any moral responsibility to help the hundreds of thousands of households falling into delinquency daily because of the economy and high unemployment numbers. These financial institutions are reporting massive profits but are not helping everyday Americans – they are lining only their own pockets.

The administration’s Making Home Affordable program was put into operation as a means of helping three to four million households from foreclosure but because of the greed of some financial institutions it seems that only 50% of those households will receive the help they should have received. The Obama administration is trying to outwit the financial institutions they helped by publicly putting pressure on these institutions to do what they promised to do.  A White House aide said that they will continue to refine the program as needed and will not be satisfied until more program participants are transitioned from trial to permanent mortgage modifications.

November 18, 2009

Health Care Reform: Don’t Be Distracted By The Abortion Talk

Six in ten Americans favor a ban on the use of federal funds for abortion. Fine.  But let’s not let that stop us from passing Health Care Reform. The abortion issue and Health Care Reform are two completely different issues.  Don’t be distracted.  Don’t lose your focus.

I personally don’t believe in abortions but I believe in a woman’s right to chose.  I am not God and will therefore not judge someone else’s circumstances.  I do not believe that “the public at large” or our law makers should create legislation that would prevent many women from getting their health insurance plan to cover the cost of an abortion, even if no federal funds are involved. That’s just too black and white — what about women who are in a medical crisis?

These same people who are screaming that government is too big are the same people who want to micro-manage other people’s reproductive organs and choices.  Hypocrites!!!

Most Americans like most of the current House bill.  They like the parts that add new regulations to the health insurance industry that will stop them from discriminating against pre-existing conditions and provide more coverage for people who can’t afford health care.  Americans also like the language in the bill that requires companies to provide health insurance to their workers. But most of us are not so sure about the language that requires people to get health insurance on their own if they don’t get it through another source.  We agree with and understand the philosophy behind it, but it’s worrisome.

Folks, let us work this out.  Let us create a bill that benefits the majority of Americans.  Let us pass Health Care Reform.  Send a letter via US mail or send an email or call your elected officials and tell them what you don’t like about the existing bill and what you do like and support. Your voice matters.

Participate in the process.  Let your voice be heard. Tell our law makers to make the current House bill even better but please continue to support Health Care Reform.

Contact your elected officials — everyone from our President, Vice President, Senators, US Representatives, Governors and State legislators — by going to http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml

November 8, 2009

Health Care Reform: House Vote Brings Us One Step Closer To Success

us-congress-building  This morning, we are one step closer to achieving health care reform in the United States of America.  Can I get a “hip, hip!”

Nancy Pelosi and The House voted 220-215 on Saturday night on health care legislation that would provide way past due relief to Americans struggling to buy or hold on to health insurance.  One Republican, Representative Anh “Joseph” Cao of Louisiana voted with the Democrats.

Some Democrats said they voted for the legislation so they could seek improvements in it. “This bill will get better in the Senate,” said Representative Jim Cooper, D-Tennessee who has been outspoken in his criticism of some provisions of the bill but decided to support it. “If we kill it here, it won’t have a chance to get better.”  “Our plan is not perfect, but it is a good start toward providing affordable health care to all Americans,” said Representative Peter A. DeFazio D-Oregon.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and The Senate still have to bring their health care plan to the floor for debate. Once their decision is made then the House and Senate will bargain and hopefully reach a deal on a final bill that will go to President Obama for signing.

The health care legislature passed last night will be paid for through new fees and taxes along with strategic cuts to Medicare.  The plan will extend coverage to 36 million people now without insurance while creating a government health insurance program. It would end insurance company practices like not covering pre-existing conditions or dropping people when they become ill.  Most employers would have to provide coverage or pay a tax penalty of up to 8 percent of their payroll. The bill would significantly expand Medicaid and would offer subsidies to help moderate-income people buy insurance from private companies or from a government insurance plan. It would also set up a national insurance exchange where people could shop for coverage.

“We did what we promised the American people we would do,” said Representative Steny Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland and the majority leader, but he also warned, “Much work remains.”

The successful vote came after President Obama traveled to Capitol Hill to make a personal appeal for lawmakers to “answer the call of history” and support the bill.

During the private meeting with Democrats in the Cannon Caucus Room, the President acknowledged the political difficulty of supporting major legislation in the face of unanimous Republican opposition and tough criticism from conservatives.

Lawmakers credited President Obama with converting a final few holdouts during his appearance at a closed-door meeting with Democrats just hours before the vote. Democratic officials said that the President’s conversation Saturday with Representative Michael H. Michaud, D-Maine, was crucial in winning one final vote.

After the vote, Mr. Obama issued a statement praising the House and calling on the Senate to follow suit. “I am absolutely confident it will and I look forward to signing comprehensive health insurance reform into law by the end of the year.”

But don’t forget, there’s lots of work still to be done.  We will have to make calls, send letters and send emails to our Senators in the upcoming weeks so that they will pass a health care plan.

November 6, 2009

The NY Yankees Are The Champions!!! But NYC Throws LeBron James A Party?

Yankees Parade Baseball  The New York courtship of LeBron James began in earnest when the scheduling gods curiously put his only appearance at Madison Square Garden on the same day as the Yankees’ World Series victory parade.

NY Yankee 5 Hideki Matsui  If you believe in conspiracy theories, then this is right up there with the “chilled” envelope pulled by David Stern in the 1985 Draft lottery, putting Patrick Ewing in New York. You mean LeBron, a die-hard Yankees fan, gets an up-close look while the city is being painted in pinstripes? Is there a better marketing opportunity?

Is this better than anything Madison Avenue could dream up?

Yankees Parade Baseball  The Knicks hope the intoxicating celebrity factor will be enough to sway LeBron next summer as a free agent, because that’s all the Knicks really have in their favor. They can’t offer more money. They can’t offer a better collection of teammates, at least not right away. They can offer Spike Lee while Cleveland offers Drew Carey. They can (and will, you watch) get Spike and Chris Rock, among other celebrity row fixtures, to make a recruiting film in which famous people explain to LeBron why playing in New York will be far more enjoyable than playing in Cleveland.

(Sample pitch from Rock: “Hey LeBron, where you celebratin’ after a tough game in Cleveland? Arby’s?”)

NY Yankees Derek Jeter Trophy  A handful of the Yankees, still smelling of champagne, will be strategically seated at courtside Friday, making LeBron the second-most loved athlete in the house … if Derek Jeter shows up.

Yankees Parade Baseball  Then there’s C.C. Sabathia, big basketball fan and friend of LeBron’s from when Sabathia played in Cleveland; he left for New York and scored an instant jackpot, both with money and a ring. The video screen will constantly show their faces and they’ll get a standing ovation, all designed to show LeBron what it’s like to be a champion in New York. And the fans, no doubt, will chime in, cheering LeBron at warmups (like, who else will they cheer this year?), gushing whenever he does something spectacular and chanting “MVP,” as they did last year, when he dropped 52 on the Knicks.

World Series Yankees Baseball  All this will play to LeBron’s ego and convince him that a star of his magnitude needs to be in New York. That theory, by the way, is obsolete. Maybe 20-25 years ago, a star could receive better perks in New York, as Reggie Jackson did when he left the small market A’s. But with the global media and advertising of today, that’s not really necessary. LeBron blew up commercially without ever leaving Cleveland, and that will continue to be the case if he stays in Cleveland.

NY Yankees 5 A Rod J Z  Obviously, the big factor for LeBron is collecting championships and whether his best chance is in Cleveland with a Cavs’ team that’s probably third-best behind Boston and Orlando and lacks a starry supporting cast, or a Knicks team being furiously stripped and rebuilt on the fly. The Knicks hope it also comes down to the stars and whether LeBron wants to hang with his buddy Jay-Z after the game, or retire to his palatial pad in Cleveland and call it a night.

That’ll be LeBron’s decision to make next July. And guess what? The Yankees should be in first place then, too.

Friday, November 6 @ 8pm EST on ESPN Cleveland Cavaliers at New York Knicks!

November 4, 2009

I’ve Got The Seasonal Flu…Yeah?!

Cough and Sneeze

It started way early this year. Walking around coughing. Runny nose. Deep congestion. Unsettled stomach.  Waking up at 3am and not being able to fall back asleep.  Despite the make-up I was wearing, I looked sick but I didn’t have a severe fever.  Yes I had muscle aches and chills and went from hot to cold in a nanosecond and a temperature higher than 98.6 but I didn’t have a severe fever.

I live in Florida so usually the flu doesn’t hit us until February – not this year; the flu came early.

Everyone who looked at me, and saw me blowing my nose, or coughing, probably thought I had the swine flu. I stopped at a local pharmacy and bought cough drops, aspirin and two different types of flu and cold medicine, as well as a large carton of orange juice. As the cashier saw me approaching, her eyes got big. She began to hesitate — as if she didn’t want me to approach her register. I could tell she thought I had the swine flu.

I tried to comfort her — telling her it was simply a pre-emptive strike. I said I was fine, but simply had a sore throat. I said I wanted to start drinking orange juice early just to play it safe. I doubt she fell for anything I said.

It seems like the different viruses, colds and other bad bug strains out there may be packing a little bit more punch this year. Most folks who get sick now automatically assume they’ve got the swine flu. I did, and it was kind of scary. I even went to the ATM machine and took out money — fearing I could end up in the hospital in a matter of hours.  Don’t ask the logic behind that thinking.

Since we don’t usually see a full blown outbreak of the seasonal flu in Florida until February health officials believe most of the influenza activity we are seeing right now is H1N1, and not the seasonal flu. So we could be looking at a double dose of flu activity this year. Swine flu now and seasonal flu later this winter. Hopefully that won’t be the case, but things are certainly off to a bad start.

It’s starting to look like we are in for a long and rough flu season. I’ve got my hand sanitizer ready. I’m sick now and I have no desire to get sick again.

The 2009 virus circulating the world isn’t strictly swine flu; rather, it’s a mix of swine, avian and human influenza that has never been seen before in humans. In the upcoming months, we’ll be dealt the double whammy of seasonal flu season and a potential second wave of swine flu.

Some people already have enough trouble determining if they have a cold or the flu; the symptoms are similar, although the flu’s symptoms are a bit more intense. But it may be especially difficult to know if you have swine flu or seasonal flu, since the symptoms are extremely similar. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Swine flu patients also report diarrhea and vomiting, not usually present in seasonal flu.

A laboratory test is the only way to confirm a case of swine flu, but few tests have been done as most swine flu cases thus far look like a bout with seasonal flu. Many people recover without needing any medication or hospitalization, and some might not even know they’re ill. The mild nature of swine flu has led some to question why there needs to be any worry, as deaths have been far less than those attributable to seasonal flu.

However, because the current H1N1 influenza is completely new and no one has immunity, public health officials warn that swine flu could eventually cause more complications than seasonal flu does. Not only will there be more complications, they’ll likely be more serious. So far, doctors have reported that swine flu is more likely to result in viral pneumonia, as opposed to bacterial pneumonia often seen in seasonal flu cases; the bacterial version is much easier to treat than the viral kind.

Even if you don’t know if you have swine flu or seasonal flu, head to the doctor if you start to experience symptoms that aren’t part of a typical flu experience; these may be the warning signs of serious swine flu complications. That means everyone needs to remain vigilant about their health in the coming months.

Because swine flu and seasonal flu are transmitted in the same way, everyone should be on watch when it comes to prevention. Cover your mouth with your elbow when you cough or sneeze, wash your hands often, stop touching other people’s stuff in the office, don’t touch that door handle, stop talking in other people’s face and stay home when you’re sick. Whether you have seasonal or swine flu, you’ll be doing everyone around you a favor.

I’m GLAD that I don’t have the ‘swine’ — just a bad case of the good old seasonal flu which takes about five to ten days to shake — according to the doctor.

November 1, 2009

VOTE!!! IMPORTANT Elections on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Do you have an election in your community this week?  If you do, go out and VOTE and take a friend with you.

Folks, there are elections all across the country on Tuesday, November 3 and THEY MATTER. 

We’ll see important elections for Governor in New Jersey and Virginia and important Mayoral elections in Atlanta, Houston, New York and other cities and we should be focused on them.  Plus races for City Council, State Legislature and other positions are also up for grabs.  These elections might not receive as much publicity and hype and may not seem to be as ‘sexy’ as the Presidential elections but they are more important in many ways.

These elections will affect our daily lives: The raising of fees, property taxes, making our schools more effective, fighting disparities in our criminal justice system are all determined by the City Council, Commissioner’s Court, Sherriff’s office and by local and state judges yet we ignore these elections.  We should gladly spend time in lines to make sure our votes are counted in our local elections.

Even though President Obama is the leader of our country and the leader of the Democratic Party, once he authorizes monies to go to our communities our local elected officials are the ones who decide HOW to spend the monies. 

Our President is VERY important but our local elected officials are the people who allocate these funds in a meaningful way or waste it to serve their own personal agendas.

In order for President Obama’s policies to be effective, we need local politicians in office who have a similar vision.

Know which local politician(s) in your community will do the most for you and your family.  Share this information with your neighbors and friends and please make sure everyone in your household go out and vote and make sure each person takes a friend with them to the polls.

Keep your eyes on the prize — vote on Tuesday!!!

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