- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

March 30

Savannah (Ga.) Morning News on payday loans are sinkholes for wallets:

It’s now official. The payday loan business is a giant sinkhole for people’s wallets.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal watchdog group, reported last week that about half of all payday loans are made to people who extend the loans so many times they end up paying more in fees than the original amount they borrowed.

The report showed that four of five payday loans are extended, or “rolled over,” within 14 days. Additional fees are charged when loans are rolled over.

“We are concerned that too many borrowers slide into the debt traps that payday loans can become,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a statement.

No kidding. Worse, it’s a trap that’s difficult to escape.

Payday loans, also known as cash advances or check loans, are short-term loans at high interest rates, usually for $500 or less. They often are made to borrowers with weak credit or low incomes, and the storefront businesses often are located near military bases. The equivalent annual interest rates run to three digits.

The loans work this way: You need money today, but payday is a week or two away. You write a check dated for your payday and give it to the lender. You get your money, minus the interest fee. In two weeks, the lender cashes your check or charges you more interest to extend, or “roll over,” the loan for another two weeks.

Payday loans are generally illegal in Georgia, according to the Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs.

What’s especially shocking in the CFPB report were some of the numbers.

The bureau based its report on data from about 12 million payday loans in 30 states in 2011 and 2012. It found that only 15 percent of borrowers repay all their payday debts on time without re-borrowing within 14 days, and 64 percent renew at least one loan one or more times.

Meanwhile, 22 percent of payday loans are extended by borrowers six times or more; 15 percent are extended at least 10 times.

The industry argues that payday loans provide a useful service to help people manage unexpected and temporary financial difficulties.

Maybe that’s how it works 15 percent of the time. But for the remaining 85 percent, it looks like this industry is grabbing someone’s billfold and not letting go.




March 30

The Telegraph, Macon, Ga., on Gov. Deal can prevent Georgia from going to the extreme:

The National Rifle Association has finally achieved its holy grail in Georgia. House Bill 60 covers a wide swath, leaving almost no stone uncovered as to who can get a gun carry permit and where a person with a license can carry his or her weapon. We are Second Amendment advocates, but House Bill 60 goes far beyond that amendment’s meaning.

For example:

- Those with a history of mental health, alcohol or drug issues can still acquire a carry permit. So can those convicted of pointing or aiming a weapon at someone. Convicted felons can evoke the “stand your ground” law in the event of a killing, and there is no training requirement to obtain a weapons carry permit.

- Weapons are allowed to be carried in government buildings where access is not restricted or screened by certified security personnel (i.e., board of elections, Department of Driver Services, government centers and county commission/city council/school board meetings).

- Schools, colleges, technical schools, both public and private, can authorize employees — teachers, principals, janitors — to carry weapons.

- Licensed carriers are permitted to have weapons in nonrestricted airport areas. If they carry a weapon into a screening area, no arrest can be made if they leave immediately, nor can law enforcement detain them to determine if they have a permit.

- Licensed carriers are permitted to carry their weapons in church, subject to the church’s approval.

- Municipalities can require “heads of households” to own a weapon but cannot regulate any other aspect concerning weapons.

Americans for Responsible Solutions, founded by Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman who was shot at an event in her district in Arizona in 2011 where six others were killed, called Georgia’s new gun law, “the most extreme gun bill in America.”

There is one chance remaining that could prevent Georgia from devolving into a morass where everyone is packing because everyone is packing. The bill sits on Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk awaiting his signature.

While he would attract the wrath of the NRA, does he have the courage, in an election year, to kick the bill to the curb? There are many valid reasons for doing so, from the lack of a training requirement to the danger to law enforcement this bill fosters to liability issues the bill passes along to school systems if they allow personnel to carry weapons. We can only hope.




March 30

The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle on working without a ‘Net:

The Internet is uniquely American. It was invented here, it is largely controlled here and it reflects our ideals of freedom and free speech.

What would the Internet look like if it were controlled by China? Or Russia? Or the United Nations?

The prospect is unnerving to say the least, but such a scenario is possible under an Obama administration plan to cede authority of the Web’s core architecture to a yet-to-be-determined global organization.

As one expert pointed out, not since President Carter’s 1977 giveaway of the Panama Canal - another U.S.-envisioned, U.S.-financed, world-changing project - has such an important American asset been cast aside for nothing.

The Obama administration has said it would turn over the powerful Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, known as ICANN, to a “global multistakeholder community” once its contract with the U.S. Department of Commerce expires in 2015.

The nonprofit ICANN manages the systems that enable all Internet-connected devices to find each other, including the “domain name” system that creates web addresses with such familiar endings as .com, .gov, or .org.

Unlike a purely technical venture that can be overseen by engineers, ICANN is a quasi-political entity - a type of online planning and zoning board - with a major say in who gets digital real estate and what they are allowed to do with it.

ICANN in American control gives the U.S. leverage in debates over how the Internet operates, and provides us with a trump card to fend off any international attacks on Internet freedom.

The process has worked well since 1998. If it’s not broken, why is Obama trying to “fix” it?



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