Archive for September 2007
|Edwin Black||September 24th 2007|
No one needs to be reminded that a significant segment of our population has become geographically and financially immobilized by an infectious condition known generally as “the housing and mortgage crisis.” Make no mistake. The crisis involves not just the so-called “sub-prime” business, but ordinary creditworthy consumers battered by financial misconduct and over-speculation by developers.
People can’t move on because far fewer people can move in or move out. Too many houses exist for too few buyers. Prices have tumbled. Inventories of unsold parcels have skyrocketed. The whole concept of property as “a sure bet” in America has been threatened. For each person who cannot sell a house, buy a house or suffers a foreclosure, the pain and hurt is multiplied like a slow-moving epidemic throughout the domino-structured housing market. Our national housing crisis in turn is flattening or eliminating hundreds of thousands of jobs and economic vitality.
Now to the overnight fix: Bring back “the assumable mortgage.” The financial world abolished this age-old method of home buying and selling during the financially turbulent seventies and eighties when President Jimmy Carter’s double-digit inflationary society inspired the rapacious mortgage lending industry to pressure the last one to five percent assumable loans out of existence and contractually prevent any new ones. Read more ..
|Abraham Foxman||September 23rd 2007|
Anti-Defamation League national director
|Abraham H. Foxman|
The U.S. House of Representatives finally has passed a bill to protect consumers from unfair life insurance discrimination on the basis of past or future foreign travel. This is a much needed and welcome development. For far too long, insurance companies have routinely denied coverage to individuals because of their travel plans.
This unfair practice has adversely impacted everyone from tourists to corporate executives to students studying abroad. Insurance companies typically ask questions on life insurance applications about past or future travel destinations. Those travelers listing countries appearing on the U.S. State Department’s advisory list – including Israel - have too often found themselves rejected for coverage.
We understand that the insurance industry relies on risk assessment to determine whether to provide coverage, but denials should only occur when bona fide statistical differences in risk or exposure have been substantiated. Read more ..
Travel on Television
No one should venture a trip to Masada without first viewing the History Channel's "Lost World" episode regarding Herod's monumental works in ancient Israel, especially at Masada.The "you discover" epsiode is packed with the type of computer graphics and visualizations that generate greater views and perspectives than the standard long shots of the ramps and staging areas below. Of particular interest is the explanation of Herod's innovative mountaintop mid-desert bath houses which generated both steam and cool water in an arid desert where nearby water did not exist. To bring even greater life to the history, trying viewing the two-part dramatic series Masada
. The story of Masada is one of history's first great mass sacrifice for freedom, and enduring tale to this day.
|by Edwin Black||September 12th 2007|
|BBT'S broken website notice|
BBT is still struggling to bring its online service back to full functionality and cope with outraged consumer backlash. Shortly after the bank "improved" its online software on August 3, 2007 to make it “safer, faster, and more convenient for you,” the website slowed to a crawl, lost and duplicated transactions, clobbered integrated customer financial management software such as Quicken, and in many cases became completely inaccessible. The problems were first reported exclusively by The Cutting Edge. Online function problems heightened during late August and by Labor Day the BBT site became completely inaccessible for many customers during most business hours. In early September, patches and fixes were installed, but problems have persisted so the company has been forced to post a prominent apology on its logon page.
“Recently, you may have experienced slow response times while accessing BB&T OnLine banking.” The statement reads, adding, “Over the past several days, you may also have been unable to log on to BB&T OnLine at different times. We understand this may have made it difficult for you to access your accounts and schedule your bill payments. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. Please know that our technicians are working diligently to expedite a solution. Our goal at BB&T OnLine is to provide you with the Perfect Client Experience for every online interaction. We know we have fallen short of this promise and want to assure you that we are doing everything we can to correct this problem. Thank you for your patience as we work to resolve our performance issues and restore your confidence in BB&T OnLine.”
|Dan Levin||September 9th 2007|
The overwhelming majority of respondents to an unscientific Cutting Edge Reader Poll declared they did not believe the truthfulness of USHMM explanations about the transfer of the International Tracing Services's Nazi-era archives held at Bad Arolsen, Germany.
In response to the question: "Is the US Holocaust Museum being honest about Bad Arolsen Files?" the results were:
- 92 percent "No"
- 5 percent "Not Completely
- 3 percent "Yes"
Negative poll responses increased dramatically after the USHMM staged an August 23, 2007 event with Red Cross officials and Holocaust survivors and Second Generation families to explain details of the transfer and announced that no media would be allowed to attend. USHMM spokesman Andrew Hollinger refused to return a phone call inquiring about the poll results. During the poll period in August 2007, the Cutting Edge recorded 56,989 hits.
|Samuel Orez||September 7th 2007|
Chicago’s Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies is finally moving into its long-awaited new home on trendy South Michigan Ave. November 30, 2007, the acutely angular 10-story glass edifice, $55 million in the making, will open its doors for studies, research, and cultural amazement. Spertus’s college, museum, collections and performance venues along with the Asher Library and Chicago Jewish Archives will function beneath tenth floor garden bestowing sweeping views of majestic Lake Michigan and Grant Park.
Among the special features, Spertus will provide a 400-seat multimedia theater for speaking events, music, dance and film. Wolfgang Puck Catering will operate the kosher café. The Chicago Jewish Archives, managed by archivist Joy Kingsolver, offers more than 200 valuable collections, including the pivotal records of Chicago Zionists instrumental in the dramatic events swirling around the Holocaust and establishment of the State of Israel.
Among the Chicago Jewish Archives collection supervised by the hardworking Kingsolver is collection 72, the original research files used by author Edwin Black in assembling his bestselling award-winning book, The Transfer Agreement. Read more ..
|by Walid Phares||September 4th 2007|
Cutting Edge Contributor
|Iran's Revolutionary Guard|
Placing the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (Pasdaran) on the official U.S. terror list is not unlike what it would have been to so-target the SS, and by association the Nazi regime and the German war machine during World War II.
To name the 125,000-strong Pasradan a “terrorist organization” [the first state military branch to be so designated] was a master stroke of effective symbolism. We can already see the uncomfortable, worldwide reaction as exhibited by the spokespersons of the Khomeinist elite, including the Arab-speaking apologists for Tehran.
Speaking on Al Jazeera and other Arab media, pro-Iranian commentators reacting to the news boasted about the omnipresence of the Pasdaran across Iran and asked, "How will the U.S. make a distinction between the Guards and the people." In fact, such comments betray the fear Iranian leaders have had at this point.
Clearly, Iran's leaders are embarrassed in front of their masses; embarrassed that a global power officially considers the most-powerful organization within the regime to be nothing more than “terrorists.” The impact of this decision has barely begun, and will snowball in terms of the psychological impact it will surely have on the ordinary Iranian citizen. Read more ..
Consumer Bank News
|By Sam Orez||September 3rd 2007|
|HSBC Local But Not|
A recent call responding to an exquisite HSBC bank brochure inviting new local customers revealed a startling and noisome policy. HSBC does not permit its customers to call their local branch with questions or to receive information. Phone numbers are not listed on the bank's massive website and even the phone company won't provide the number--they are unlisted. In order to reach their local bank branch, consumers must first call an offshore call center in the Philippines and then after evaluation, that offshore call center will decide whether consumers need to be connected. HSBC, which claims to be a global network of "local banks," stands by its policy, insisting it is for the customer's protection and to enhance customer service. One phone bank representative argued, "How can our tellers get anything done if they are answering the phone?" The HSBC phone bank representative went on to explain that all major banks refuse to divulge their branch phone numbers. Not so. Read more ..
|by Edwin Black||September 2nd 2007|
BBT customers have been groaning recently over BBT's overtaxed and sometimes dysfunctional online banking website. The website was inaccessible for several days at the end of August, and the first days of September after the Labor Day weekend, especially in the morning when more people tend to log on. System burps and stutters caused some linked Quicken money management programs to record false double payments created by the overtaxed BBT online site. Attempts to reach the company’s much touted “24x7” online banking help line to correct problems were fruitless. Not a few customers gave up after multiple 30-minute and 45-minute hold sessions hearing the same tedious on-hold messages. Worse, BBT’s online Quicken assistance does not even operate on the weekends when most people often need such help managing their personal finances. Anxious branch officers trying to help their customers straighten out glitches were subjected to the same frustration since they were calling the same BBT toll-free number. At press time, the website was back to normal with some of the glitches resolvable by manually deleting false Quicken entries, and re-entering the needed BBT information. But the web meltdown was a warning sign that with the explosion in online banking, driven both by personal convenience and the banking industry’s growing insistence on paperless relationships, more meltdowns can be expected from BBT and others.