Threat to soldiers: lenders (5×8 – 5/17/13)

The loan racket, race and mass shootings, sharing the road, a welcome home, and haircuts for hugs.


1) THE LOAN RACKET

Among this week’s must reads is the joint project with Marketplace and Pro Publica, examining the way military service members are being ripped off by the loan industry, despite laws designed to protect them.

It’s a typical bureaucratic loop. Soldiers, who could get no-interest loans from the military, don’t tell their commanding officers they need one, because they can lose security clearances over financial troubles.

So they go to private lenders, many of whom are only too happy to prey upon them, and who have cleverly figured out the loopholes of regulations.


Loans are broadly and legally available from stores and over the Internet. QC Holdings, Advance America, Cash America and Ace Cash Express — all among the country’s largest payday lenders — offer loans that fall outside the definitions of the Military Lending Act, which defined a payday loan as lasting three months or less.

The annual rates can be sky high, such as those offered by Ace Cash Express in Texas, where a five-month loan for $400 comes with an annual rate of 585 percent, according to the company’s website.

2) RACE AND MASS SHOOTINGS

Two suspects in the Mother’s Day parade shooting in New Orleans are in custody. Ten men, seven women, a boy and a girl were wounded in the attack.

Some attention now is focusing on the lack of attention.

Writing in The Guardian, David Dennis of New Orleans asserts it’s a racial thing:


Because this is an act of domestic terrorism right? Just because the alleged shooter was wearing a white tee and jeans does that suddenly make the shooting a gang-related affair? And we all know how irrelevant gang-related shootings are in America. The Mother’s Day shooting is so irrelevant that politicians haven’t even bothered to mention it to further their anti-gun agendas. If the shootings aren’t even important enough for politicians to spin, then it’s truly reached a black hole of irrelevance.

Did I mention the shooter is still on the loose? I have? Just checking. Police have released photos and video of one of the suspects, but he is still at large.

Now take a moment and imagine a Mother’s Day Parade in the suburbs of Denver, a neighborhood in Edina or a plaza in Austin where bullets rain down on civilians and even hit children. I can’t help but imagine the around-the-clock news coverage. And I can’t help but think it’s because most of America can identify with the fear of being bombarded with gunfire while just enjoying a parade in the middle of town. But America can’t identify with being at a parade in the “inner city” where “gang violence” erupts. The “oh my God, that could happen to me” factor isn’t present with a story about New Orleans or the Chicago southside.

The allegations are similar to those voiced after a mass shooting at a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee where attention did not reach the level of an earlier shooting in Aurora, Colorado.

3) SHARING THE ROAD

We are the point in the season where sometimes we have to hit the brakes for ducklings and goslings crossing the road. Or, as my Twitter feed has revealed in disconcerting numbers of late, we can just speed through and kill them all.

Let’s let Portland Police officer Mark James be our guide. He was chasing a speeder on Monday…

4) WELCOME HOME

In St. Petersburg last evening, Alayna Adams, threw out the first pitch at last night’s Rays – Red Sox game, after he father, a soldier in Afghanistan, sent a message that was played on the stadium’s video board.

You know what’s coming next, right?

alyssa_tampa_2.jpg

5) HAIRCUTS FOR HUGS

Anthony Cymerys, known in Hartford, CT., as “Joe the Barber,” sets up shop every Wednesday in a city park, and gives free haircuts to homeless people.

“It really is love. I love these guys,” Cymerys told the Associated Press this week as he paused and turned to his client in the chair, “You know I love you, right?”

TODAY’S QUESTION

“Governor Dayton and DFL legislative leaders have announced a deal on an overall tax bill that would increase roughly $2 billion in new taxes,” blogs MPR News reporter Tom Scheck. Today’s Question: What do you make of the tax deal reached by Gov. Dayton and legislative leaders?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Friday roundtable with area faith leaders talking with Jim Wallis of Sojourners, about his book, “On God’s Side.”

Second hour: The controversy over the Department of Justice seizing of reporters’ phone records.

Third hour: The rise in adjunct professors.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): MPR reporters Mike Mulcahy, Tom Scheck, and Tim Pugmire discuss the final weekend of the legislative session.

Science Friday (1-2 p.m.) – A look at eating insects.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - In 2007, Rochester resident Chris Skogen wanted to visit a friend who had recently moved to Mankato. An avid biker, Skogen, now 35, rounded up 12 friends and they pedaled west on gravel roads to stay away from cars and trucks. The trip was a success. Skogen was hooked on gravel and he’s organized races every year since. Skogen now finds himself at the center of an emerging style of cycling that’s done entirely on unpaved, backcountry roads. MPR’s Elizabeth Baier will have the story.

Every summer in city parks in the mid 20th century, people would gather for community sings. In Minneapolis from about 1920 through 1943 community sings drew thousands of people. This year, there’s an effort to recreate the community sing timed with a May 18th community sing event at Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis. MPR baritone Dan Olson joins in.

MPR’s Dan Gunderson will look at the Minnesota National Guard’s new unmanned aircraft flight center at Camp Ripley that will expand training and testing for drones at the central Minnesota military facility. What will it mean for the future of unmanned aircraft in Minnesota?

When JJ Abrams re-booted the Star Trek movie franchise in 2009, fans worried about how their favorite characters would be played. They were especially uneasy about the portrayal of the iconic Mister Spock. Fortunately, many sci-fi fans see him living long and prospering thanks to actor Zachary Quinto . NPR profiles him.

  • Robert Moffitt

    Thank you, officer Mark James. I really needed that moment of kindness.

  • Chuck

    #3: Awwww . . .

  • Tim

    It’s good that people are paying attention to these payday lenders’ awful business practices. That said, it’s been going on for a while. It’s horrible to rip military service members off like this, but why does it take that for the issue to get the attention it deserves? It shouldn’t be okay to rip anybody else off either.

  • BJ

    #3 Portland Police – Its raining in Portland OR, color me purple. I lived in Portland 1995-1996, it didn’t rain like 5 days the whole time. Worse than snow, really it is.