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Archive for June 2nd, 2014

Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl Released

Posted by Admin On June - 2 - 2014 1 COMMENT

Statement by President Barack Obama on the Release of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl

Good afternoon, everybody.  This morning, I called Bob and Jani Bergdahl and told them that after nearly five years in captivity, their son, Bowe, is coming home.

Sergeant Bergdahl has missed birthdays and holidays and the simple moments with family and friends, which all of us take for granted.  But while Bowe was gone he was never forgotten.  His parents thought about him and prayed for him every single day, as did his sister, Sky, who prayed for his safe return.

He wasn’t forgotten by his community in Idaho, or the military, which rallied to support the Bergdahls through thick and thin.  And he wasn’t forgotten by his country, because the United States of America does not ever leave our men and women in uniform behind.

As Commander-in-Chief, I am proud of the servicemembers who recovered Sergeant Bergdahl and brought him safely out of harm’s way.  As usual, they performed with extraordinary courage and professionalism, and they have made their nation proud.

Right now, our top priority is making sure that Bowe gets the care and support that he needs and that he can be reunited with his family as soon as possible.

I’m also grateful for the tireless work of our diplomats, and for the cooperation of the government of Qatar in helping to secure Bowe’s release.  We’ve worked for several years to achieve this goal, and earlier this week I was able to personally thank the Emir of Qatar for his leadership in helping us get it done.  As part of this effort, the United States is transferring five detainees from the prison in Guantanamo Bay to Qatar.  The Qatari government has given us assurances that it will put in place measures to protect our national security.

I also want to express gratitude to the Afghan government, which has always supported our efforts to secure Bowe’s release. Going forward, the United States will continue to support an Afghan-led process of reconciliation, which could help secure a hard-earned peace within a sovereign and unified Afghanistan.

As I said earlier this week, we’re committed to winding down the war in Afghanistan, and we are committed to closing Gitmo.  But we also made an ironclad commitment to bring our prisoners of war home.  That’s who we are as Americans.  It’s a profound obligation within our military, and today, at least in this instance, it’s a promise we’ve been able to keep.

I am mindful, though, that there are many troops who remain missing in the past.  That’s why we’re never going to forget; we’re never going to give up our search for servicemembers who remain unaccounted for.  We also remain deeply committed to securing the release of American citizens who are unjustly detained abroad and deserve to be reunited with their families, just like the Bergdahls soon will be.

Bob and Jani, today families across America share in the joy that I know you feel.  As a parent, I can’t imagine the hardship that you guys have gone through.  As President, I know that I speak for all Americans when I say we cannot wait for the moment when you are reunited and your son, Bowe, is back in your arms.

So, with that, I’d like Bob to have an opportunity to say something, and Jani, if she’d like as well.  Please.

MRS. BERGDAHL:  I just want to say thank you to everyone who has supported Bowe.  He’s had a wonderful team everywhere.  We will continue to stay strong for Bowe while he recovers.  Thank you.

MR. BERGDAHL:  I’d like to say to Bowe right now, who is having trouble speaking English — (speaks in Pashto) — I’m your father, Bowe.

To the people of Afghanistan, the same — (speaks in Pashto) — the complicated nature of this recovery was — will never really be comprehended.  To each and every single one who effected this, in this country, in the service branches, at the State Department, throughout the whole of American government, and around the world, international governments around the world, thank you so much.  We just can’t communicate the words this morning when we heard from the President.

So we look forward to continuing the recovery of our son, which is going to be a considerable task for our family.  And we hope that the media will understand that that will keep us very preoccupied in the coming days and weeks as he gets back home to the United States.

Thank you all for being here very much.

Marking a Big Loss

Posted by Admin On June - 2 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

By William Spriggs

This week marked the loss of a powerful voice in Maya Angelou. Fortunately, many in the nation paused to notice her loss. Dancer, actress, poet and teacher, Angelou captured everyone’s attention because of her ability to talk honestly out of her own pain and to get people to empathize, to share in the human experience.

Recently, Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote a telling piece for The Atlantic on reparations. As Coates notes, he leaned on the work of many people in writing the piece, including his experience studying history at his alma mater Howard University. What he did better than others, however, was weaving his argument through the personal experience of current residents of a Chicago neighborhood.

It was a great attempt to personalize a history of bad policies that others had previously described in abstract form. But perhaps his most telling passage was this: “In America there is a strange and powerful belief that if you stab a black person 10 times, the bleeding stops and the healing begins the moment the assailant drops the knife.”

This is a concept rooted in memory and a sense of who can claim to be harmed, to have a sense of being wronged, to mourn, a sense of humanity. The passage is potent because it is a powerful way to explain the lack of empathy for the plight of African Americans.

That is one of the reasons Angelou was such an important voice, because not everyone could weave more than a century of biased policies through the lives of one family, as Coates did, and not everyone could be as poetic and powerful as Angelou in bringing empathy to African American lives. But there is a far deeper damage than the case Coates makes about reparations that flows from America’s inability to empathize with the position that bad policies have left African Americans in.

At his commencement address to Howard University’s graduation in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson said, “Negro poverty is not White poverty. Many of its causes and many of its cures are the same. But there are differences-deep, corrosive, obstinate differences-radiating painful roots into the community and into the family and the nature of the individual.

These differences are not racial differences. They are solely and simply the consequence of ancient brutality, past injustice and present prejudice.” Johnson’s speech that June day was meant to elicit empathy for African- Americans, to connect them as worthy to claim the American Dream. And, to do this, he makes clear reference to a history of policies with malice; “not the result of racial differences”-differences in character, culture or morals.

Now, whenever America goes into recession, the fault lines of the policies of the past create crevices into which hundreds of thousands of African-Americans fall-compounding poverty through the loss of incomes and savings. But, rather than focus on bad policy, it quickly becomes a story about issues of character, as Congressman Paul Ryan did in explaining American poverty.

The inability to dissect bad policies and to then quickly divert attention to the victims of the policies does not just harm African-Americans. It hurts America. The lack of empathy, the sense that letting Wall Street run amok, removing the wage floor from beneath workers, denying workers their right to organize, lowering investments in our schools and colleges have no consequences, leaves Americans with blameless politicians and business elites.

Five years into a recovery that has only finally restored the number of jobs that were in place five years ago, but leaves millions unemployed and the incomes of the median family still lower and the poverty rate higher, and thousands still with homes lost to the financial “games” of Wall Street, is not really recovery. Lack of empathy is part of the ability of Republicans to vote against extending unemployment benefits or to cut Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits or fail to extend Medicaid coverage as more than half of America is still making up income losses. They feel no responsibility for those left struggling.

It isn’t enough for Americans that we have passed new regulations for Wall Street if we don’t have policies to undo the harm those policies caused. Americans deserve to be made whole. As long as we limit the narratives and stories we may tell, we will limit the policy options we can discuss. And our current “memory” defines who is suffering and who gets to make claims on policy-not the 99 percent.

Follow Spriggs on Twitter: @WSpriggs. Contact: Amaya Smith-Tune Acting Director, Media Outreach AFL-CIO 202-637-5142

Collins calls for collective action to end hunger in Illinois

Posted by Admin On June - 2 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Illinois State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago 16th) noted that 14.2 percent of Illinoisans lack consistent access to food and called on six groups to combine forces to end hunger and food insecurity in the state. The Senate adopted her resolution urging the governor to develop a comprehensive strategy to combat hunger using the existing resources and expertise of these organizations and commissions.

“Hunger is a multifaceted problem, and ending it will require the combined and focused attention of government, schools, food banks, non-profits, the business community and the faith community at every level,” said Collins, who has championed efforts to bring fresh, nutritious foods into “food deserts.”

Collins’ resolution recognizes the ongoing and potential contributions of the following groups to the fight to connect all Illinois residents to healthy foods:

· The Illinois Commission to End Hunger, which encourages partnerships between food pantries and farmers’ markets

· The Greater Chicago Food Depository, which supplies food to 650 food pantries and soup kitchens across Cook County and is pioneering an urban agriculture and employment initiative

· The Illinois Local Food, Farms and Jobs Council, created by legislation Collins sponsored in 2009, which supports the consumption of locally grown foods throughout the state

· The Serve Illinois Commission, which encourages volunteer service and engages local food projects in building a strong volunteer infrastructure

· The Illinois Task Force on Social Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Enterprise, which works at the intersection of social and economic progress

· The Illinois Business Development Council, which is developing a state business plan that prioritizes areas of high poverty and low employment

“To alleviate hunger and poverty, we must harness the power of existing resources, not create yet another stand-alone task force,” Collins said. “I know that applying dedicated talent and grassroots innovation from around the state to the unacceptable reality of hunger in our communities will bring about change.”

Harnessing the Promise: How to Accelerate the Potential of the White House ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ Initiative

Posted by Admin On June - 2 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

OP-ED By Dr. Brian Smedley and Jermane Bond

Relative to their white peers, boys and men of color face deeply inequitable life circumstances and outcomes, as measured by disparities across a range of sectors, such as education, employment, health and reproductive health, and juvenile and criminal justice involvement. Today President Obama announced the Task Force Report for the White House “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, which aims to build public- and private-sector partnerships to improve life opportunities for boys and men of color.

This represents an historic and vitally important opportunity to mobilize stakeholders and take action to embrace our young men – but its success hinges on our collective ability to understand how we as a nation have responded to this population, and how we address their needs going forward.

A host of historic and contemporary factors contribute to inequitable opportunities for boys and men of color, resulting in adverse health behaviors, constrained access to resources, and shortened life expectancy. Persistent residential segregation-an enduring legacy of de jure and de facto Jim Crow policies and practices that are reinforced by current housing discrimination and housing policies-concentrates these young men in high-poverty communities, where there are few jobs and few role models that present boys with reasons for optimism about their lives.

Residential segregation also exposes boys and men of color to high levels of crime, as well as domestic and neighborhood violence, which inhibits the development of healthy relationships, successful coping, and conflict-resolution skills. Deepening school segregation consigns a disproportionate share of boys of color to failing school systems that struggle to prepare youth for educational excellence and advancement. In contrast, many of these schools employ policies and practices that increase the likelihood of school dropout (e.g., through draconian school disciplinary policies) and non-persistence.

And many boys and men of color, deprived of opportunities for full participation in the economic and political life of their communities, find themselves seeking income through the underground economy, thinking only in terms of short-term needs, and starting families with partners with whom they are poorly prepared to raise children.

To address limited opportunities for men of color, in 2005 the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies launched the Dellums Commission to analyze obstacles commonly confronted by young men of color, and to identify effective policies and practices that could help them enjoy a more successful path in life. The Commission was chaired by former Oakland Mayor Ronald V. Dellums, a social worker by training who served with distinction as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1971 to 1998. The other members of the Commission included a diverse group of state legislators, judges, educators, human rights activists, corporate executives, religious leaders, and representatives from the African-American, Latino, American-Indian, and Asian-American communities.

The Commission sought to address actionable solutions, directing their attention on a new way forward, beyond diagnosis, organizing ideas and policies to form an urgent agenda. They commissioned a series of studies by leading experts to identify national, state, and local policies in the areas of health and mental health services, juvenile justice and criminal justice, and family support and child welfare. The result of these studies was a comprehensive policy agenda and a powerful group of recommendations designed to ignite reforms that would enhance the well-being of communities of color and demonstrate that government, business, communities, and individuals can work together to eliminate barriers faced by boys and men of color.

Building on the success of the Dellums Commission, we must re-ignite our efforts to implement effective policy change by building coalitions that will unite labor, industry, science, public health, religious leaders, philanthropists, foundations, and elected officials in a consortium to improve life opportunities for boys and men of color. Advancements in opportunity for boys and men of color at local and national levels will occur only when we comprehensively address the major forces impeding progress: inequitable life opportunities structured along geographical and racial lines (e.g., residential and school segregation); inadequate public demand for action, buttressed by explicit and implicit negative views and biases against the population (e.g., as reinforced through news media, entertainment, and popular culture); and a lack of leadership opportunities for boys and men of color that can help them elevate their voices in civic discourse, mentor succeeding generations, and change cultural norms and practices among their peers.

Given rapid demographic shifts, our nation needs to harness the talents and leadership of boys and men of color if we are to remain a strong, vibrant democracy. My Brother’s Keeper is an important step toward this goal. Let’s use this moment to build a new future for our young men.

Raoul gives young adults arrested as juveniles a fresh start

Posted by Admin On June - 2 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

18-year-olds’ juvenile arrest records for minor offenses could be expunged automatically

SPRINGFIELD, IL –Illinois State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) has won the General Assembly’s approval of his initiative giving some young people arrested as juveniles – but never charged with crimes – an automatic fresh start after they turn 18. The legislation simplifies a process so complicated that only 70 of the 25,000 juveniles arrested last year in Chicago successfully petitioned to have their records expunged.

“A juvenile arrest record can destroy a young person’s first, best shot at adult life, whether that’s a college education, a scholarship or a job opportunity,” Raoul said. “Navigating the current expungement process is so difficult that these young adults, most of whom cannot afford legal counsel, often give up – even when they didn’t commit the offense in question.”

Only juveniles arrested for offenses that would be classified as misdemeanors or Class 3 or 4 felonies (the two lowest levels of severity) would be eligible for automatic expungement— and only if the state’s attorney never filed a petition for delinquency (the juvenile justice equivalent of a formal filing of charges). The legislation also excludes sex offenses. If signed into law, the initiative would require the State Police to expunge juvenile arrest records once a year for all eligible arrestees who turned 18 during the previous year and weren’t arrested again during the past six months.

“The goal of juvenile justice is rehabilitation; we want to speed our young people toward lives of responsibility and promise, not sentence them to lives of hopelessness and crime,” Raoul said. “This new approach will open doors that right now are being slammed in the faces of the next generation.”

Unbalanced and Unconstitutional Budget Approved by Legislature

Posted by Admin On June - 2 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS


Illinois State Representative and candidate for Illinois State Treasurer Tom Cross today released the following statement regarding the legislature’s approval of an unbalanced state budget.

“The budget approved today only exacerbates Illinois’ worsening fiscal condition.  By over-spending and over-borrowing, Springfield politicians are placing more debt on Illinois families to pay for an unbalanced budget.  Let’s be clear, Illinois’ budget violates state law.  It is hundreds of millions of dollars out of balance.  And it ensures Illinois will remain with one of the nations’ worst budget deficits that will only deteriorate further over time and result in more massive and job-killing tax increases.  Now, more than ever, we need an honestly balanced budget and if I am fortunate to be elected State Treasurer, I will go to court and challenge the legality of this budget which clearly violates Illinois’ Constitution.”

Kirk, Hines Whistleblowers Reveal Culture of Corruption at Hines VA Hospital

Posted by Admin On June - 2 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Two Hines Physicians and a Social Worker Detail Misconduct

Claim Intimidation and Retaliation Block Willingness to Cooperate with Investigators

CHICAGO, IL – U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)  met with Edward J. Hines, Jr. VA Hospital whistleblowers to outline specific allegations of misconduct and corruption at the Hines VA. Germaine Clarno, a social worker at Hines VA and President of the Local 781 AFGE Union, along with two physicians (names withheld) from the Hines VA, discussed the allegations and reports of secret wait lists, falsified reports, and ongoing corruption within the VA that may have contributed to the sickness and possible deaths of Illinois veterans.

“The allegations of secret wait lists and corruption within the internal workings of the Hines VA hospital is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the misconduct and systemic corruption within the VA,” Senator Kirk said. “The stories I have heard today from these Hines employees have shown that there is little to no protection for employees that speak out against a culture of corruption and falsification of reports. Those willing to share their experience about veterans’ care should be protected from retaliation or intimidation.”

Following today’s meeting with Physician 1, Clinician 2, and Germaine Clarno, Senator Kirk provided the following information:

  • Whistleblower Physician 1 has evidence of being asked to ignore unread echocardiograms, a culture of corruption and practices of intimidation and retaliation.
  • Whistleblower Clinician 2 has evidence of being asked to change/redact/revise patient records to cover up lapses in care and a culture of corruption, and practices of intimidation and retaliation.
  • Germaine Clarno has provided Senator Kirk with testimonials, evidence of wait lists and manipulated scheduling practices, lapses in care, and a systemic culture of corruption, intimidation and retaliation within the Hines VA.

President Obama’s Weekly Address: Reducing Carbon Pollution in Our Power Plants

Posted by Admin On June - 2 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, President Obama discussed new actions by the Environmental Protection Agency to cut dangerous carbon pollution, a plan that builds on the efforts already taken by many states, cities and companies. These new commonsense guidelines to reduce carbon pollution from power plants were created with feedback from businesses, and state and local governments, and they would build a clean energy economy while reducing carbon pollution. The President discussed this new plan from the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where he visited children whose asthma is aggravated by air pollution.  As a parent, the President said he is dedicated to make sure our planet is cleaner and safer for future generations.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
May 31, 2014

Hi, everybody.  I’m here at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., visiting with some kids being treated here all the time for asthma and other breathing problems.  Often, these illnesses are aggravated by air pollution – pollution from the same sources that release carbon and contribute to climate change.  And for the sake of all our kids, we’ve got to do more to reduce it.

Earlier this month, hundreds of scientists declared that climate change is no longer a distant threat – it “has moved firmly into the present.” Its costs can be measured in lost lives and livelihoods, lost homes and businesses; and higher prices for food, insurance, and rebuilding.

That’s why, last year, I put forward America’s first climate action plan.  This plan cuts carbon pollution by building a clean energy economy – using more clean energy, less dirty energy, and wasting less energy throughout our economy.

One of the best things we can do for our economy, our health, and our environment is to lead the world in producing cleaner, safer energy – and we’re already generating more clean energy than ever before.  Thanks in part to the investments we made in the Recovery Act, the electricity America generates from wind has tripled.  And from the sun, it’s increased more than tenfold. In fact, every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar – and every panel is pounded into place by a worker whose job cannot be shipped overseas.

We’re wasting less energy, too.  We’ve doubled how far our cars and trucks will go on a gallon of gas by the middle of the next decade, saving you money at the pump – and we’re helping families and businesses save billions with more efficient homes, buildings, and appliances.

This strategy has created jobs, grown our economy, and helped make America more energy independent than we’ve been in decades – all while holding our carbon emissions to levels not seen in about 20 years.  It’s a good start.  But for the sake of our children, we have to do more.

This week, we will.  Today, about 40% of America’s carbon pollution comes from power plants.  But right now, there are no national limits to the amount of carbon pollution that existing plants can pump into the air we breathe. None. We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury, sulfur, and arsenic that power plants put in our air and water.  But they can dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air.  It’s not smart, it’s not safe, and it doesn’t make sense.

That’s why, a year ago, I directed the Environmental Protection Agency to build on the efforts of many states, cities, and companies, and come up with commonsense guidelines for reducing dangerous carbon pollution from our power plants.  This week, we’re unveiling these proposed guidelines, which will cut down on the carbon pollution, smog, and soot that threaten the health of the most vulnerable Americans, including children and the elderly.  In just the first year that these standards go into effect, up to 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks will be avoided – and those numbers will go up from there.

These standards were created in an open and transparent way, with input from the business community.  States and local governments weighed in, too.  In fact, nearly a dozen states are already implementing their own market-based programs to reduce carbon pollution.  And over 1,000 mayors have signed agreements to cut their cities’ carbon pollution.

So the idea of setting higher standards to cut pollution at our power plants is not new.  It’s just time for Washington to catch up with the rest of the country.

Now, special interests and their allies in Congress will claim that these guidelines will kill jobs and crush the economy.  Let’s face it, that’s what they always say.

But every time America has set clear rules and better standards for our air, our water, and our children’s health – the warnings of the cynics have been wrong.  They warned that doing something about the smog choking our cities, and acid rain poisoning our lakes, would kill business.  It didn’t.  Our air got cleaner, acid rain was cut dramatically, and our economy kept growing.

These excuses for inaction somehow suggest a lack of faith in American businesses and American ingenuity.  The truth is, when we ask our workers and businesses to innovate, they do.  When we raise the bar, they meet it.  When we restricted cancer-causing chemicals in plastics and leaded fuel in our cars, American chemists came up with better substitutes.  When we phased out the gases that depleted the ozone layer, American workers built better refrigerators and air conditioners.  The fuel standards we put in place a few years ago didn’t cripple automakers; the American auto industry retooled, and today, they’re selling the best cars in the world, with more hybrids, plug-in, and fuel-efficient models to choose from than ever before.

In America, we don’t have to choose between the health of our economy and the health of our children.  The old rules may say we can’t protect our environment and promote economic growth at the same time, but in America, we’ve always used new technology to break the old rules.

As President, and as a parent, I refuse to condemn our children to a planet that’s beyond fixing.  The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way.  But a low-carbon, clean energy economy can be an engine of growth for decades to come.  America will build that engine.  America will build the future.  A future that’s cleaner, more prosperous, and full of good jobs – a future where we can look our kids in the eye and tell them we did our part to leave them a safer, more stable world.

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

Attorney General Madigan: Lawmakers Pass Bill to Protect Low Wage Workers

Posted by Admin On June - 2 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

SPRINGFIELD, IL — Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan praised lawmakers for passing legislation that puts in place protections for low wage workers who receive their wages on a payroll card, an increasingly common method of payment used by Illinois employers. The bill will provide important protections for workers against unreasonable fees to access their pay.

House lawmakers voted 98-11-1 today to send House Bill 5622 to the governor. The bill, crafted by Attorney General Madigan’s office and sponsored by Rep. Arthur Turner and Sen. Kwame Raoul, addresses this increasingly popular form of payment used by employers of hourly, low wage workers at fast food restaurants and stores. Instead of issuing paper checks, employers are providing wages on payroll cards. But employees are charged numerous fees to access or spend their earned wages, such as: a $5 account inactivity fee, a $3 fee for requesting a monthly statement of their account or 50 cent fees every time they want to make a purchase or check their account balance.

Last year, the Attorney General’s office began investigating the use of payroll cards after receiving complaints from employees in Illinois and discovered the unreasonable fees attached to the cards and other practices that reduce the employees’ earnings. The Attorney General’s office crafted the legislation, with the assistance of the Illinois Department of Labor, to put a stop to these harmful practices.

“People shouldn’t have to pay to get their pay,” Madigan said. “This bill will ensure that low wage workers get all of their wages instead of having them siphoned off by banks through unfair and excessive fees.”

The bill will help ensure payroll cards benefit employees by prohibiting fees for simply accessing their wages or checking an account balance, while also providing employers with flexibility to meet the proposed requirements. The bill will provide guidelines for employers wishing to use this new form of wage payment.

“Ideally, every worker would be able to have a bank account and build their savings each pay period,” Rep. Turner said. “Unfortunately this is not the case for employees throughout the state of Illinois. Allowing businesses to pay their employees through electronic debit cards gives workers a secure, convenient and no-cost alternative to a paycheck.”

House Bill 5622 would:

  • Ensure employees can access their wages without incurring fees, including a prohibition on fees for overdrafts, transaction history requests and purchases;
  • Limit fees for card inactivity and declined transactions;
  • Preserve employees’ right to choose the payment method that works for them, whether that method is check, direct deposit or payroll card; and
  • Require employers to give employees notice of the terms of the payroll card program

“Workers compensated using payroll cards deserve a fair wage, fairly paid – without having to put up with excessive fees and restrictions just to access their paychecks,” said Sen. Raoul. “Employers and employees should be able to use this increasingly popular form of payment, as long as workers’ options and reasonable expectations of fair treatment are respected.”

Carefully Check for Hidden Fees When Making Vacation Plans, Warns Better Business Bureau

Posted by Admin On June - 2 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

CHICAGO, IL – Bargain-priced vacations are not always what they appear to be. For example, the price shown may look appealing, although there are often additional fees and hidden details. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers to investigate and compare vacation plans, and to ask questions about extra fees that could significantly impact your vacation budget.

Resorts may have fees that go unmentioned until check out time. These fees may be included in your bill for a variety of amenities including internet access, gym usage and access to the safe or refrigerator. These increased costs can surprise consumers if they haven’t read the terms and conditions of a vacation package.

“Travel arrangements require a significant amount of time,” said Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “It is vital that consumers take their time reading through fine print and make sure to ask questions.”

Fees for various amenities can range from $10 to $30 per day and are not always included in the checkout price on online booking sites. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) describes resort fees as being a part of “drip pricing”, a business model in which firms advertise only part of a price and reveal other charges later in the billing process. Drip pricing is not exclusive to the travel industry. It is also common among financial institutions and rental car companies.

The BBB offers some advice for consumers to avoid undisclosed fees:

  • Carefully read the fine print. Review the terms and conditions of a hotel for your stay and before providing a credit card number, in order to discover additional fees that may be added to your bill.
  • Double check what is included. Some “all inclusive” resorts fail to mention that some services are not included. This could be any service including transportation to and from the airport, drinks or certain activities.
  • Compare prices. Before making a commitment, compare prices with other all-inclusive vacations and vacations that are not all-inclusive. You want to make sure you get the most for your money.
  • Add tips into your budget. Some resorts have their staff refuse tips but most expect proper tipping etiquette. Expect to tip hotel staff, restaurant staff and bartenders.
  • Low prices can mean low quality. Remember that you get what you pay for. Decide whether you want to risk low quality with a low price.
  • Ask questions. If you are unsure of something you read in the fine print, make sure you contact the hotel with questions and concerns beforehand.
  • Discuss the questions and concerns you had at check-in. Verify the total cost again at check-in. It is much easier to discuss potential charges before it goes on your credit card.

For more tips, visit www.bbb.org, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

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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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