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Archive for June 30th, 2010

First Black Church in Illinois featured in latest issue of Historic Illinois

Posted by Admin On June - 30 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS
Also featured in the latest issue of Historic Illinois are the deadly tornadoes of 1917 and 1925, and Eads Bridge over Mississippi River
 
Springfield, IL – The first black church in Illinois, the deadly tornadoes of 1917 and 1925, and the Eads Bridge connecting Illinois and Missouri for nearly 140 years are featured in the latest issue of Historic Illinois, a publication of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA).
 
Established in 1809, the Flat Creek Missionary Baptist Church in St. Clair County is believed to be the oldest black church in Illinois.  Located in East Carondelet, the church was originally named for the flat creek bottom where those original members of African and Native American descent would congregate.  These members came from three of the first settlements in the area:  Cahokia and Prairie du Pont on the Illinois side and Carondelet on the Missouri side.  Flooding from the Mississippi River was always an issue for congregants, and after many struggles, a generous land trade in 1876 gave Minister Frederick Luance the deed for a new church property, where parishioners built their new wood-framed church.  This site is still the home of the congregation today, with the church celebrating its bicentennial last year. Efforts are ongoing to establish the adjacent cemetery as a state archaeological site and a massive cleanup effort is currently underway.
 
The deadly tornadoes of 1917 and 1925 that devastated large areas of Illinois brought on major changes in the ways storms are tracked and damages prevented.  In May 1917, a tornado that began near Quincy began moving east, killing 211 Illinoisans and causing nearly $61 million damage in today’s terms to Charleston and Mattoon. Another tornado began in a similar fashion in 1925, covering three states and killing 695 people in Illinois alone.  This ranks as the highest tornado death toll in the United States. These storms lead to new rules and regulations that were put in place to prevent these massive financial damages and loss of human life.  Insurance coverage was altered to cover storm damages; residents began building underground storm shelters; and volunteers flooded local radio stations to help alert communities of incoming severe weather – this effort in particular led to the establishment of storm sirens in Illinois. 
 
Novice bridge designer James B. Eads defied the odds and created a bridge that has connected Illinois and Missouri across the mighty Mississippi River at St. Louis for almost 140 years.  Steamboat owners did not want the bridge to be developed and tried to stall the project by bringing forward near-impossible specifications for what must comprise the bridge.  Eads took these and set about designing a bridge that would carry rail and vehicle traffic.  His proposed bridge of steel with supports resting on bedrock met some resistance from steel giant Andrew Carnegie, who did not want to provide the type of steel Eads desired.  Moreover, Eads’ inventive design led to dangerous working conditions resulting many workers’ deaths.  The project prevailed, however, and the seven year construction effort ended on July 4, 1874 when famed Civil War General William T. Sherman drove the last spike and pronounced the bridge open.  The bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in both Illinois and Missouri in 1963 and declared a National Historic Landmark a year later.
 
Historic Illinois is a bimonthly IHPA publication that features historically significant sites in Illinois. Subscriptions are $10 per year, which includes six issues of Historic Illinois and one full-color Historic Illinois Calendar. For more information, call (217) 524-6045, visit www.Illinois-History.gov, or write Historic Illinois, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, 1 Old State Capitol Plaza, Springfield, IL 62701-1507. 

Madigan sues Countrywide for discrimination against African American and Latino borrowers

Posted by Admin On June - 30 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

 

Alleges African American and Latino Homeowners Paid More for Their Mortgages than They Should Have 

 

Chicago, IL — Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced today that she has filed a lawsuit against Countrywide, a subsidiary of Bank of America, for unlawfully discriminating against African American and Latino borrowers in home mortgage sales, in violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act and the Illinois Fairness in Lending Act. The Attorney General filed her complaint in Cook County Circuit Court against Countrywide Financial Corporation; Countrywide Home Loans, Inc.; and Full Spectrum Lending, Inc., an arm of Countrywide that mostly sold subprime loans.

Madigan’s complaint alleges that the former mortgage giant steered African American and Latino borrowers into risky subprime mortgages more often than similarly-situated white borrowers. The complaint also alleges that minority borrowers paid more for mortgages across Countrywide’s product line, including its prime loans. Significantly, Madigan’s analysis of Countrywide loan data found that the racial disparities could not be explained by objective factors, such as borrowers’ credit scores or debt-to-income ratios.

At the height of the housing bubble, Countrywide was the largest mortgage lender in the country and in Illinois . Countrywide was also the state’s top seller of subprime loans. Bank of America bought Countrywide in 2008.

The failure of millions of higher-cost, or subprime, mortgages nationwide is largely responsible for triggering the ongoing foreclosure crisis and resulting economic recession.  

“Countrywide’s illegal discriminatory lending practices destroyed the wealth and dreams of thousands of African American and Latino homeowners,” Madigan said. “Bank of America needs to be held accountable by taking financial responsibility for cleaning up the devastation of the predatory company that it chose to take over.”

Madigan’s lawsuit is the result of a two-year investigation of Countrywide’s lending policies and practices that were in place during the years directly preceding the collapse of the housing market.  The Attorney General issued a fair lending subpoena to Countrywide in March 2008, after a Chicago Reporter study of federally collected mortgage lending data for the Chicago area found that, in 2006, Countrywide Financial Corporation sold higher-cost loans to 50.9 percent of its African American borrowers and 33.8 percent of its Latino borrowers, while only 19.5 percent of the company’s white borrowers received high-cost loans. 

The Attorney General’s investigation included a statistical analysis of data from over 83,000 Countrywide mortgages originated in Illinois from 2005 through 2007. Madigan’s office also interviewed former Countrywide employees and mortgage brokers, and spoke with Countrywide borrowers about their home loans.

As outlined in the complaint, Madigan’s analysis of Countrywide’s loan data found that the odds that African American and Latino borrowers would receive a higher-cost subprime mortgage from Countrywide were three times greater than those of white borrowers. In addition, Madigan’s investigation found that Countrywide charged African American and Latino borrowers higher interest rates and fees on loans spanning the company’s range of products, including its prime products, as compared with similarly-situated white borrowers.

Madigan’s investigation further found that the disparities in Countrywide’s subprime sales and loan pricing were the result of Countrywide policies that gave employees and mortgage brokers almost unlimited discretion in the selection and pricing of loans.

“It’s disturbingly clear that if you were an African American or Latino borrower who walked into a Countrywide store, you likely paid more for your mortgage than a white borrower,” Madigan said. “Countrywide effectively imposed a surcharge on mortgage loans based on race and ethnicity. 

The Attorney General’s lawsuit asks the court to find that Countrywide engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination, enter an injunction against Countrywide to permanently prohibit the company from discriminatory acts as described in the complaint, make restitution to all victims of Countrywide’s discrimination, pay civil penalties of $25,000 for each violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act, and order any other relief that the court deems equitable.

Today’s filing is the second lawsuit Madigan has brought against Countrywide. In 2008, she filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against the lender for its major role in driving the foreclosure crisis, and in November 2008, she led negotiations that resulted in an $8.7 billion settlement of that lawsuit with Bank of America.

Today’s filing is also the second fair lending lawsuit Madigan has brought against a major mortgage lender. In July 2009, Madigan filed a lawsuit against Wells Fargo for violating the state’s fair lending and civil rights laws, becoming the first state attorney general in the nation to sue a federally-chartered lender for its role in creating the foreclosure crisis. The Wells Fargo litigation is ongoing.

Countrywide Steered Minority Borrowers to Subprime Loans

Specifically, Madigan’s complaint alleges that Countrywide’s retail employees and mortgage brokers had the discretion to choose the type of products offered to borrowers and to manipulate borrowers’ financial information that was entered into the company’s automated underwriting system. As a result of this discretion, the complaint alleges, minority borrowers were steered into subprime mortgages when they qualified for prime loans.

The Attorney General further alleges that Countrywide failed to institute an adequate system for automatically referring eligible borrowers from subprime to prime. Although the company added an “Uplift” protocol to its underwriting system in 2002 to supposedly prevent prime-eligible borrowers from being placed into subprime loans, Madigan alleges that the Uplift program failed as a safeguard because it depended on a combination of automated underwriting and human discretion. When interviewed by Madigan’s office, former Countrywide employees and brokers reported that they had rarely or never seen subprime loans uplifted to prime.

Minority Borrowers Paid More for Countrywide Loans

Madigan’s complaint alleges similar abuses of discretion in the pricing of Countrywide’s loans. As outlined in the lawsuit, Countrywide provided employees and brokers with rate sheets that spelled out the mortgage interest rates borrowers qualified for, based on certain credit factors. However, Madigan found that Countrywide gave employees and brokers discretion to sell borrowers loans with higher interest rates than those indicated by the rate sheets.

The complaint also alleges that Countrywide’s broad discretionary pricing policies allowed employees and brokers to use a number of devices to increase the interest rates on loans. These included manipulating the amount of cash a borrower took out on a refinance, which would increase the loan-to-value ratio, and adding features to the loan such as a prepayment penalty or an adjustable interest rate.

Countrywide’s Compensation Structure Incentivized the Sale of Subprime and High-Cost Loans

In addition to Countrywide’s discretionary policies, the Attorney General alleges that the company’s compensation structure provided employees and mortgage brokers with incentives to steer prime-eligible borrowers into subprime loans and to sell loans with the highest interest rates possible. As cited in the complaint, Countrywide provided those incentives by linking compensation to volume of sales, paying employees more for originating subprime loans, basing compensation in part on the interest rate of the loan, and paying brokers a premium for loans with features associated with subprime mortgages.

Countrywide Aggressively Marketed its Loans to Minority Borrowers

Additionally, Madigan alleges that early in the last decade Countrywide began aggressively marketing its services and products to a so-called “emerging market” of untapped borrowers, namely African Americans and Latinos. Minority borrowers thus became the targets of Countrywide’s new marketing strategy at a time when the company’s compensation structure was increasingly incentivizing the sale of risky subprime loans. The complaint alleges that as a result of these events, African American and Latino borrowers disproportionately suffered the harmful effects of Countrywide’s toxic loans, and these effects were magnified by Countrywide’s discretionary product selection and pricing policies.

Illinois homeowners who believe they may be victims of Countrywide’s discriminatory lending practices should contact the Attorney General’s office via a special e-mail address at CountrywideDiscrimination@atg.state.il.us or by calling the Attorney General’s Homeowners Helpline at 1-866-544-7151.

Madigan also reminded homeowners that her Web site, at www.IllinoisAttorneyGeneral.gov, provides resources to assist homeowners in crisis including her Illinois Mortgage Lending Guide, a resource manual containing step-by-step instructions for those struggling to make their loan payments and a list of HUD-certified counseling agencies that offer default counseling services. Homeowners who do not have easy access to the Internet should call the Attorney General’s Helpline, to quickly receive the guide by mail.

The RLJ Companies announces the formation of a strategic relationship with U.S. and Haitian partners to participate in the economic development of Haiti

Posted by Admin On June - 30 - 2010 4 COMMENTS

Distributed through BlackNews.com

 

— Announcement Came After Meeting with President Preval Who Conveyed His Support of the Group’s Effort to Stimulate Construction of Housing and Critical Infrastructure throughout Country —

 


Haitian President Rene Preval; Bob Johnson, founder and chairman of The RLJ Companies; Youri Mevs, managing partner, Haiti-based WIN Group and president of the Haitian Economic Development Foundation. (Port Au Prince/Photo Credit: Randy Valdes)

Bethesda, MD (BlackNews.com) — In an effort to spur economic revitalization in Haiti, Bob Johnson, founder and chairman of The RLJ Companies (RLJ), today announced a strategic relationship with Global Building Solutions, LLC, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. (RCL) and Haiti-based WIN Group, to build two structured insulated panel (SIP) manufacturing facilities that will provide construction materials for building housing and critical infrastructure in and around Port-Au-Prince, Cap Hatien, as well as throughout other key business centers in Haiti.

The announcement came during a visit by Johnson to Port-Au-Prince, where he met with Haitian President Rene Preval, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, and other key governmental and community leaders. They stated that Johnson’s proposal should be introduced to the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission as a priority project for approval and funding.

The facilities would be developed through Johnson’s newly formed entity, Caribbean Opportunity Holdings, a company jointly owned by RLJ and Global Building Solutions (GBS), a South Carolina-based international SIP manufacturer and design/build organization.

SIP technology is stronger than traditionally built homes and is more resistant to earthquakes, wind and other natural elements. In a climate such as Haiti’s, it offers added strength and durability at a competitive value. The product is also green technology, which creates structures that are energy-efficient and comfortable.

Using GBS’s proven SIP technology, RLJ and GBS recently teamed to develop the RLJ Kendeja Resort and Villas in Monrovia, Liberia, which, from architectural plans to grand opening, was completed in under 12 months. The team looks to engage the same technology and processes, as well as local business entities to further Haiti’s infrastructure needs, a crucial element of this endeavor. For example, in Liberia, where GBS directly employed 900 local workers, as well as facilitated the formation of 37 locally owned subcontractors who were crucial to the successful development of the hotel project.

The strategic relationship includes Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., the largest global cruise brand and the second largest investor in Haiti, with cruise lines that port in Labadee, Haiti, and Haiti-based WIN Group, one of the Caribbean’s largest conglomerates, with stakes in diverse industries such as warehousing, storage and port operations.

“While the situation in Haiti is extremely challenging, our team was very encouraged by President Preval’s leadership, his commitment to political stability, openness towards the international business community, and desire for further investment,” said Johnson. “We had a very constructive visit, and I’ve no doubt that bringing together international and local businesses with a broad range of expertise will allow this project to help meet the country’s crucial housing and infrastructure needs.”

“We are honored to work with The RLJ Companies, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. and WIN Group to provide such an important element of Haiti’s reconstruction,” says Michael Murphy, principal with GBS.

“We also look forward to training area residents, helping them develop a new trade, and of course, a source of employment and generating revenue.”

“Royal Caribbean has been one of Haiti’s largest foreign investors and employers for almost 30 years. During this time, we have developed both a strong partnership with Haiti, as well as nurtured a strong presence,” said Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of RCL. “Since the devastating earthquake earlier this year, we have been assisting Haiti in its recovery by providing basic life necessities: medical supplies, water, food and education. Royal Caribbean is currently building a model school in Labadee. What better way to help rebuild a country than by contributing to a strong education for its children? We will be acquiring materials from GBS and are using local Haitian labor to build the school. We are pleased to join with The RLJ Companies, GBS, and the WIN Group, in furthering our commitment in Haiti,” Fain said.

“We need support from the U.S. private sector to further President Clinton’s call to help expand our economy,” says Youri Mevs, managing partner of the WIN Group, and president of the Haitian Economic Development Foundation. “The RLJ Companies has global expertise in a multitude of sectors and knows what it takes to create sustainable business and resources. We are confident that they can be a major asset in rebuilding our nation.”
About The RLJ Companies:
The RLJ Companies, founded by Robert L. Johnson, is an innovative business network that provides strategic investments in a diverse portfolio of companies. The RLJ Companies seeks to target undiscovered or underserved markets then exercise solid management to achieve results. Within The RLJ Companies portfolio, Johnson owns or holds majority interests in businesses operating in banking, private equity, hospitality, automobile dealerships, entertainment, and video lottery terminal (VLT) gaming. The RLJ Companies is headquartered in Bethesda, MD, with affiliate operations in Charlotte, NC; Orlando, FL; Little Rock, AR; Los Angeles, CA; San Juan, PR; and Monrovia, Liberia. Prior to founding The RLJ Companies, Johnson was founder and chairman of Black Entertainment Television (BET). For more information visit www.rljcompanies.com.

About Global Building Solutions:
Global Building Solutions, LLC is a project-based company which seeks out unique opportunities globally in order to provide comprehensive ground up project management. GBS owns and operates manufacturing facilities in Charleston, South Carolina and in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia which produce advanced building materials capable of being exported worldwide. GBS continually strives to innovate its products and manufacturing processes to create exportable, value-added solutions for its customers and their projects. GBS has extensive experience in the area of SIP manufacturing, construction, construction management, and finance and project management. GBS’s world headquarters are located in Charleston, South Carolina. For additional information visit: www.globalbuilding.net.

About Royal Caribbean Cruises LTD
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. is a global cruise vacation company that operates Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Pullmantur, Azamara Club Cruises and CDF Croisieres de France. The company has a combined total of 39 ships in service and three under construction. It also offers unique landtour vacations in Alaska, Asia, Australia/New Zealand, Canada, Dubai, Europe and South America. Additional information can be found on www.royalcaribbean.com, www.celebritycruises.com, www.pullmantur.es, www.azamaraclubcruise.com, www.cdfcroisieresdefrance.com or www.rclinvestor.com

About WIN Group:
The Haiti-based, Mevs family-held WIN Group is one of the Caribbean’s largest conglomerates with stakes in diverse industries such as warehousing and storage, and port operations. WIN’s holdings include SHODECOSA, the largest privately-owned industrial and commercial park in Haiti, Varreux Terminal, the largest privately-owned general cargo shipping terminal, and WINECO, the largest liquid bulk storage facility, among other enterprises. The fourth generation family has always had a significant impact on the country through its social service-based endeavors, and actively supports numerous organizations providing both immediate relief, and long-term infrastructure development. For additional information, visit www.wingrouponline.com.

The Gettysburg Address returns

Posted by Admin On June - 30 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS
 
Goes back on display July 1 to November 21 at Presidential Museum
 
 Springfield, IL – Four score and seventeen weeks ago, the State of Illinois’s original manuscript of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was taken off of public display to give the document a well-deserved rest.  Now, on the 147th anniversary of the famous battle from which it derives its name, the document will temporarily return to public display in the Treasures Gallery at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield, Illinois.
 
The Gettysburg Address will be placed back on display Thursday, July 1, a full 97 weeks after it was removed from public viewing in August 2008.  It will remain available for public viewing through Sunday, November 21, or two days after the anniversary of the day Lincoln gave the speech on November 19, 1863. 
 
“People ask us when the Gettysburg Address might go back on display, and in honor of the people who changed the course of history there, the answer is, right now,” said Lincoln Curator James Cornelius.
 
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM) rotates its collection of original Lincoln artifacts so that about three dozen are on public display at any given time while the remainder are stored in a secure, climate-controlled underground vault.  Original historical materials such as the Gettysburg Address remain in better condition if they are allowed to “rest” in a more controlled environment rather than remain on constant public display.
 
The vault in which the 52,000 items of the ALPLM Lincoln Collection are stored maintains a temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit, relative humidity of 43 percent, and — for the most valuable items — complete darkness, ideal conditions for paper conservation.  Conditions are close to these targets in the Museum’s Treasures Gallery, where fiber-optic lighting minimizes any natural fading of the ink.
 
There are five original handwritten versions of the Gettysburg Address.  Two are in the Library of Congress, one at Cornell University, and one in the Lincoln Bedroom of the White House.  The ALPLM’s copy, written out at the request of Edward Everett, the main speaker on November 19, 1863, at the Gettysburg Cemetery dedication, came to the State of Illinois in 1944 thanks to the contributions of pennies by Illinois schoolchildren plus a donation by department store magnate Marshall Field III.  The ALPLM copy contains the two additional words “under God” that Lincoln had not included in his two original file copies.
 
And what is the market value of what many would argue is one of the most important documents in American history?
 
“Since the State of Illinois does not sell its Lincoln artifacts, no one knows for certain what price it would bring,” said Cornelius.  “Suffice it to say, priceless.”          
The ALPLM’s Henry Horner Lincoln Collection also contains:

  • Nearly 1,600 original letters and manuscripts written or signed by Lincoln, including one of the Leland-Boker printings of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by the President
  • More than 250 historical artifacts associated with the sixteenth president and his family, including Lincoln’s original traveling shaving mirror, Tad Lincoln’s toy cannon, the skirt to Mary Lincoln’s wedding dress, and Robert Lincoln’s college keepsakes
  • Approximately 320 pieces of Mary Lincoln’s correspondence
  • The 46 letterpress books of Robert Lincoln’s professional career
  • More than 2,700 Lincoln-related prints and photographs
  • More than 1,100 broadsides
  • More than 14,000 books and pamphlets
  • More than 2,400 items of Lincoln artworks, crafts, and ephemera that reflect evolving notions of Lincoln and his legacy in the collective memory of the American people and the people of the world. 
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For more information, visit www.presidentlincoln.org.

Berrios campaign will not challenge Claypool petitions

Posted by Admin On June - 30 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

Berrios campaign completes petition review; issues prepared statement                    

                                                                       

 Democratic candidate for Assessor will win with the voters, not courts. After completing an extensive review, the campaign of Joseph Berrios for Assessor has opted not to file an objection to Forrest Claypool’s petitions to get on the November ballot as an independent candidate.

This decision was made despite two-thirds of Mr. Claypool’s signatures being questionable, as well as one-third of his circulators. The campaign has said from the beginning that, in an effort to protect the integrity of the law, it would thoroughly review Mr. Claypool’s signatures.

“It would be irresponsible to subject either the public authorities or our opponent to the cost, time and effort of litigation, perhaps all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court,” said campaign spokesman Manuel Galvan. “Instead, the campaign asks Mr. Claypool to set aside the insults and empty rhetoric, and pledge to conduct a spirited, fair and clean campaign. The public deserves nothing less.”

That being said, the public also deserves to know what the campaign’s petition review found. Of the 89,913 signatures:

  • Mr. Claypool personally deleted 1,301 bad signatures.
  • Nearly 53,000 suspect signatures, including many who weren’t registered to vote in
  • Cook County, or didn’t sign the petitions themselves or signed more than once.
  • Circulator ineligibility would have reduced the total by another 6,000 signatures.
  • Additionally, another 6,000 more alleged valid signatures may have been ineligible on other grounds.

Short of further legal action in the courts, the Berrios Campaign believes that there would be 30,000 to 32,000 valid signatures remaining, and the law requires 25,000 signatures to file as an independent candidate.

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Welcome to CopyLine Magazine! The first issue of CopyLine Magazine was published in November, 1990, by Editor & Publisher Juanita Bratcher. CopyLine’s main focus is on the political arena – to inform our readers and analyze many of the pressing issues of the day - controversial or otherwise. Our objectives are clear – to keep you abreast of political happenings and maneuvering in the political arena, by reporting and providing provocative commentaries on various issues. For more about CopyLine Magazine, CopyLine Blog, and CopyLine Television/Video, please visit juanitabratcher.com, copylinemagazine.com, and oneononetelevision.com. Bratcher has been a News/Reporter, Author, Publisher, and Journalist for 33 years. She is the author of six books, including “Harold: The Making of a Big City Mayor” (Harold Washington), Chicago’s first African-American mayor; and “Beyond the Boardroom: Empowering a New Generation of Leaders,” about John Herman Stroger, Jr., the first African-American elected President of the Cook County Board. Bratcher is also a Poet/Songwriter, with 17 records – produced by HillTop Records of Hollywood, California. Juanita Bratcher Publisher

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