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Archive for January 26th, 2012

Attorney General Madigan sues Standard & Poor's for enabling financial meltdown

Posted by Admin On January - 26 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Lawsuit: ‘Profits were running the show’ at leading credit ratings agency


CHICAGO, IL — Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit against Standard & Poor’s for its fraudulent role in assigning its highest ratings to risky mortgage-backed investments in the years leading up to the housing market crash.  

Madigan filed her lawsuit yesterday in Cook County Circuit Court, alleging that Standard & Poor’s, or S&P, compromised its independence as a ratings agency by doling out high ratings to unworthy, risky investments as a corporate strategy to increase its revenue and market share. The Attorney General’s lawsuit alleges that S&P ignored the increasing risks posed by mortgage-backed securities, instead giving the investment pools ratings that were favorable to its investment bank client base and S&P’s profits.

“Publically, S&P took every opportunity to proclaim their analyses and ratings as independent, objective and free from its desire for revenue,” Madigan said. “Yet privately, S&P abandoned its principles and instead used every trick possible to give deals high ratings in order to retain clients and generate revenue. The mortgage-backed securities that helped our market soar – and ultimately crash – could not have been purchased by most investors without S&P’s seal of approval.”

The Attorney General’s lawsuit cites numerous internal emails and conversations among S&P employees in the run up to the housing market’s crash that demonstrate the company misrepresented its ratings as objective and independent. In one such exchange, in April 2007, an online conversation via a company-based instant messenger application revealed employees discussing S&P ratings compared to the reality of risk involved, with an employee stating an investment “could be structured by cows and we would rate it.”

Madigan said investors relied on S&P ratings because they were historically rooted in the agency’s purported independence and objectivity. S&P’s internal code of conduct states its goal to “promote investor protection by safeguarding the integrity of the rating process.” But, the Attorney General’s lawsuit cites congressional testimony by a former managing director of S&P who revealed that “profits were running the show,” with ratings being assigned to risky investments to help drive profit margins for their clients.

S&P, a subsidiary of McGraw-Hill Companies, is one of the nation’s largest credit ratings agencies responsible for independently rating risk on behalf of clients and investors. Madigan said in the run up to the financial crisis, S&P consistently misrepresented the risk of mortgage-backed securities, assigning these securities its highest seal of approval – or AAA rating. This misrepresentation spurred investors to purchase securities that were far riskier than their ratings revealed.

Mortgage-backed securities are financial products made up of a pool of mortgages that are bundled together and sold as a security. The assets are backed by residential mortgages, including subprime mortgages. The performance of these investment products have significant, real-world implications for Illinois institutional investors, such as pension funds and 401(k) managers that make decisions about whether, and which, of these securities are appropriate investments. It was the misrepresentation of the true value of these risky mortgage pools that helped the housing market skyrocket and ultimately led to its collapse in 2008.

Today’s lawsuit is part of Attorney General Madigan’s continuing work to hold lenders accountable for their unlawful financial misconduct, and to provide relief and assistance to Illinois families struggling to save their homes. Most recently, in December 2011, Madigan and the U.S. Department of Justice reached a $335 million settlement with Countrywide, a subsidiary of Bank of America, for discriminating against thousands of Illinois borrowers of color during the height of the subprime mortgage lending spree. The settlement will provide restitution to harmed Illinois borrowers and is the largest settlement of a fair lending lawsuit ever obtained by a state attorney general. The Attorney General is litigating a similar lawsuit against Wells Fargo alleging widespread discrimination against African American and Latino borrowers.

Madigan led an earlier lawsuit against Countrywide, which resulted in a nationwide $8.7 billion settlement in 2008 over the company’s predatory lending practices. The Attorney General also reached a $39.5 million settlement with Wells Fargo over the bank’s deceptive marketing of extremely risky loans called Pay Option ARMs, and in 2006, Madigan obtained more than $10 million in restitution for Illinois homeowners as part of a $325 billion multi-state settlement with Ameriquest over the former mortgage giant’s deceptive sales of predatory subprime mortgages.

Assistant Attorneys General Vaishali Rao and Vijay Raghavan are handling the case for Madigan’s Consumer Fraud Bureau.

State's Attorney Alvarez joins U.S. Senator Durbin in Fugitive Warrant Discussion

Posted by Admin On January - 26 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez recently joined U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and representatives from federal, state and local agencies to discuss law enforcement’s efforts to track and capture criminal fugitives and to explore ways in which the process can be improved among the agencies involved in these efforts.

Alvarez was one of several local officials who joined leaders from the United States Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Justice Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Marshal’s Office who met with Senator Durbin in Chicago to discuss the local and international challenges that these agencies face in efforts to capture fugitives. 

Challenges that were identified in the process include budgetary cutbacks and personnel shortages and extradition treaty issues with other countries that prevent the United States from extraditing fugitives for certain crimes.  The group will continue to meet on a regular basis to address the issues that were raised and to work toward improving the process.

The National Black Church Initiative strongly disagrees with the National College of Physicians

Posted by Admin On January - 26 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Cost Should Not be a Factor



Washington DCThe National Black Church Initiative (NBCI), a faith-based coalition of 34,000 churches comprised of 15 denominations and 15.7 million African Americans dedicated to the eradication of racial disparities around the world, is urging all religious communities to join together in the promotion of peace. Black leadership partners – 66,000 churches nationwide – are called upon to use the full force of our combined 100,000 churches to oppose the use of costs as a factor in making health care decisions.


Recently, the American College of Physicians, the second-largest US doctors’ group after the American Medical Association, has argued in favor of the position that doctors consider cost-effectiveness when deciding how to treat patients. It has gone so far as to include the recommendation in its latest ethics manual. Due to health care costs in the US that are twice those of other industrialized countries, they argue that:


“In making recommendations to patients, designing practice guidelines and formularies, and making decisions on medical benefits review boards, physicians considered judgments should reflect the best available evidence in the biomedical literature, including data on the cost-effectiveness of different clinical approaches.”


This is a dangerous precedent as doctors should be seeking to provide the best health care to their patients not making decisions about how to ration care by deciding who should receive which procedure or medicine based on cost. They are not qualified to do so and it is professionally and morally inappropriate. This can and will lead us down the road to health care rationing and will have a disproportionate impact on underserved populations such as African Americans who do not typically have the funds to spend as much on health care as other groups. Studies have shown that African Americans receive less health care than White Americans, particularly when the care involved expensive, lifesaving new technologies.[1] This situation will be exacerbated with health rationing based upon cost considerations.


As the Reverend Anthony Evans states: “We are not saying that cost should never be a factor, but given the history of disadvantages African Americans have had we need to see preventive care, drug therapy, the latest scientific therapies and procedures and health maintenance over the next 30 years to reduce significantly African Americans horrible health personality and to raise the life expectancy, especially among black males over the next 10 yrs.”


A critical flaw in the American College of Physicians argument is that they believe that you can reduce health care costs through rationing. This is simply not the case. The cancer at the heart of the US health care system is structural as the critical driver of health care costs is the fact that the US has a for-profit health care system with massive overhead and administrative costs since a private sector middleman is required and there is a great degree of fragmentation amongst the myriad health care providers that prevents the economies of scale evident in other countries. For the purpose of maximizing profits not health outcomes, this privately run system incentives the denial of care to those who need it the most, inhibits the use of less costly preventative procedures and encourages the use of the most expensive technologies to maximize revenues.


The classic comparison is between the US and the UK which have similar legal systems and economic structures. The US with its for profit health system spends about 15% of GDP on health care annually while failing to cover 50 million people. In contrast, the public National Health System of the UK spends about 8% of GDP on health care while covering 100% of the population. The differences are startling and can only be addressed through fundamental structural change in moving the US health care system to a greater focus on public good rather than private profit.


Amazingly, as part of its argument in favor of having doctors factor cost considerations into health care considerations, the ACP is actually quite extreme and explicit in favoring what is tantamount to stinginess:


Parsimonious care that utilizes the most efficient means to effectively diagnose a condition and treat a patient respects the need to use resources wisely and to help ensure that resources are equitably available.”


The use of the term parsimonious goes far beyond having doctors be more efficient in what they proscribe but implies that doctors be cheap and withhold care for particular patients. Your doctor should be concerned about your health not about your ability to pay. Doctors obtain MDs not MBAs so they are simply not qualified to make these decisions. Moreover, trust is an important part of the doctor-patient relationship and it will undoubtedly be undermined if patients believe that they may have been offered a procedure based upon cost rather than effectiveness. As the Tuskegee experiments demonstrate, racism is as rife in the health care system as it is in all other aspects of American life so there is little doubt that the use of cost as a criteria for health decisions will open up a new avenue for discrimination.


As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  For that reason, the National Black Church Initiative is calling for 25 billion dollars to be spent on prevention and primary care in the United States. That would do far more to improve health care outcomes than health care rationing.


The NBCI cannot support recent efforts to take costs into consideration when determining a patient’s eligibility for health care procedures. Health care costs are rising in general as expensive but nonetheless lifesaving technologies should not be denied to Americans based upon their cost. These kinds of standards have the potential to be highly discriminatory and would serve to provide the health care industry with a powerful tool to deny much needed health care to US citizens at a time when we are trying to expand health coverage to the over 50 million uninsured Americans. The whole point of national health care is to avoid the de facto health care rationing that has become part of the dysfunctional health care regime in America. Cost-based standards should not be a factor in determining access to health care.


About NBCI


The National Black Church Initiative (NBCI) is a coalition of 34,000 churches working to eradicate racial disparities in healthcare, technology, education, housing, and the environment. NBCI’s mission is to provide critical wellness information to all of its members, congregants, churches and the public. NBCI offers faith-based, out-of-the box and cutting edge solutions to stubborn economic and social issues. NBCI’s programs are governed by credible statistical analysis, science based strategies and techniques, and methods that work. Visit our website at www.naltblackchurch.com.


School Prayer – The power of silence

Posted by Admin On January - 26 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

By Attorney Roy Miller

Nationwide (BlackNews.com) — We never asked little children how taking prayer out of school affected them. Some adults wanted prayer out. Little children lost the right to pray at school and only received watered down replacements. Adults were silent and adults let it happen.

The daily classroom activity of devotion was the medicine that increased faith in children and helped them believe that problems at home, loneliness, illnesses and problems at school would be made right by God. I know this, because I attended public grammar school when school prayer was allowed. I looked forward to devotion. I needed it.

Because a medicine works only on 90% of the patients and is of no desire to the other 10%, you don’t throw out the medicine.

In 1994, I, Attorney Roy Miller, became the first and only person to succeed at having the n-word deleted from a major dictionary. I have now begun a fight to return prayer back to school, as it existed prior to the Engel v. Vitale decision. Prayer is where adults and children enter into contracts with God. Restrictions amount to interfering with that contract.

By whose authority gave us, our courts and our government the power to keep children from God, when even Jesus disciples lacked such authority? When prayer was in public schools, children had respect for God and transferred that respect to humanity. Prayer connects to conscience. The Supreme Court needs to be pressured to clean up what it messed up.

“Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of heaven,” says Matthew 19:14. Even Jesus’ own disciples were warned that they lacked authority to keep children from Jesus. How is it that the United States of America can have authority through Engel v. Vitale, an atheist, to over rule what amounts to the clear Godly decision expressed in Matthew 19:14. The United States of America is allowed to exist as “one nation under God”, not equal to, nor more powerful than.

I will do everything that I can to pressure the Supreme Court to publicly answer one question. By whose authority gave the Supreme Court the jurisdictional power to take prayer out of school, man or God? If it is clear that the Supreme Court lacked authority and jurisdiction to make a decision that would out-law school prayer, then the Supreme Court should vacate their Engel v. Vitale decision, based on lack of jurisdiction and ask God for forgiveness. We must speak. We, as a nation, either stand with God or against God.

Despite the mistakes and sinful choices that we adults have made, we still have to push for our children to freely have a respectable relationship with God. When school prayer returns, morals will return and the pendulum will begin to swing the other way. I ask for your support in pressuring the United States Supreme Court to give a clear answer. I feel that God demands that we speak and not remain silent.

Attorney Roy Miller may be contacted at attorneymiller99@aol.com

Casting call for the role of "Little Inez" in Drury Lane Theatre's Hairspray

Posted by Admin On January - 26 - 2012 5 COMMENTS

Drury Lane Theatre is seeking one African American girl—preferably 4′ 6″ or shorter—to play “Little Inez” in HAIRSPRAY.  Auditions will be held on Sunday, February 5 at 1:00 p.m. at Drury Lane Theatre (in the rehearsal room) at 100 Drury Lane in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill. No appointments are necessary. The child should bring a current picture and resume as well as sheet music in her key.  The initial audition will consist of 16 bars of music in the style of the production (60’s Motown).  Specific material from the musical will need to be prepared for callbacks.  The Tony Award-winning musical HAIRSPRAY runs from April 12- June 17 with rehearsals starting March 26.  For further information, call Robyn Robbins at 630-570-7277.

African American Film Foundation enhances diversity opening weekend at 2012 Sundance Film Festival

Posted by Admin On January - 26 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Moet & Chandon and the Blackhouse Foundation Present “Dinner With Bevy” In Honor of Actors Rashida Jones and Jesse Williams

Nationwide (BlackNews.com) — The Blackhouse Foundation events hosted during the opening weekend of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, were attended by such music and film icons as Quincy Jones, Dennis Haysbert, Common, Ice T, Biz Markie, Toni Braxton, and Estelle. Some of the festivities highlighted the changes that The Blackhouse Foundation has brought to Sundance during the past five years and its support of African American independent filmmakers. The closing night event; which was sponsored by Ella Ryan LLC and Devin Hampton, was a salute to all of the filmmakers, actors and supporters of diversity calling The Blackhouse home during the festival’s opening week.

One of The Blackhouse Foundation’s signature events, “Dinner with Bevy,” honored young Hollywood actors Jesse Williams who stars in the ABC hit Grey’s Anatomy and Rashida Jones, daughter of Quincy Jones who stars in the NBC series Parks and Recreation. The exclusive “Dinner with Bevy” was presented by socialite TV’s go-to, gal-about-town and on-air commentator Bevy Smith and hosted by Moet & Chandon. Other celebrity attendees included Meagan Good, Keri Putnam, Franklin Leonard, Hank Willis Thomas, and Rockmond Dunbar.

The Blackhouse Foundation’s mission is to expand opportunities for black filmmakers continues. This year they celebrated and supported the festival’s more than 20 films with black directors, stories and/or casts. The Blackhouse Foundation furthers diversity of programming and increases attendance of African-American, multicultural and diverse filmmakers by providing a physical gathering venue, esteemed events and exclusive engagements at film festivals around the world.

The Blackhouse experience at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival was supported by Premier Sponsors TV One and ING; Official Sponsor Remy Cointreau; and Creative Sponsors Moet & Chandon, CAA, HBO, Ella Ryan, LLC, and Stella Artois. Visit www.theblackhouse.org/events/ to view photos from the events and to learn more about The Blackhouse Foundation’s efforts to change the face of independent film.

Photo Caption: Jesse Williams who stars in the ABC hit Grey’s Anatomy and Rashida Jones, daughter of Quincy Jones, who stars in the NBC series Parks and Recreation

Nate Parker, Star of George Lucas' "Red Tails" becomes executive producer for the film "Resurrecting Love"

Posted by Admin On January - 26 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

The film is a documentary about race, reconciliation, and the fight for human rights

Nationwide (BlackNews.com) — Actor Nate Parker has teamed up with Bay Area author China Galland and son, filmmaker Ben Galland, to produce the documentary feature film, Resurrecting Love: The Cemetery That Can Heal a Nation – which documents the powerful racial conflict over the right to visit a cemetery in Marshall, Texas.

This film in-progress follows two women – one black, one white – as they rally the community to fight a large timber corporation, which is denying them access to the cemetery, and in the process, change the face of Texas history. Resurrecting Love shows us how a diverse group of people can come together to heal the deep racial divisions that still threaten to tear our country apart.

The film grew out of China Galland’s book, Love Cemetery, Unburying the Secret History of Slaves, which ignited a controversy about rights to visit cemeteries throughout Texas.

Nate Parker is the star of George Lucas’ Red Tails, the story of the WWII Tuskegee Airmen, which just premiered nationwide. He is also known for his starring role with Denzel Washington in The Great Debaters and The Secret Life of Bees.

After reading about the African American descendent community being locked out of their family burial ground and kept from their ancestor’s graves, he decided to take on the role of Executive Producer to help them finish this important documentary. He also established the Nate Parker scholarship fund for young African American men at historically black Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, where Wiley students help maintain Love Cemetery.

Of the 200 hours of footage shot over the past ten years, 80 hours of poignant interviews were completed, including interviews with Pulitzer Prize winner Professor Leon F. Litwack; Reverend Professor Peter J. Gomes; Congressman John Lewis; Marianne Williamson; and the Founder of Northeastern University’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project Margaret A. Burnham.

The San Francisco Film Society is the fiscal sponsor so that people can join the cause to help finish the film. All donations are tax deductible. For more details, visit www.resurrectinglovemovie.org

The IndieGoGo campaign for Resurrecting Love can be found online at http://igg.me/p/30353

Photo Caption: Movie poster and film executive producer, Nate Parker

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