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Briefs & Things 11/28/14

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New Senate Minority Leader: Memphis’ Lee Harris; Special honor for Jesse H. Turner Jr.;  more! 

Briefs & Things

Senate Democrats elect Memphis’ Lee Harris to Minority Leader post

Senate Democrats elected Sen. Lee Harris (District 29) of Memphis to the post of Senate Minority Leader on Tuesday.

“In a caucus of five members, every single Democrat is a leader in his or her own right,” Harris said. “We're making a bet on the future of the Democratic Party in Tennessee, and we’re betting that we have better ideas to move Tennessee forward.”

Harris, a University of Memphis law professor, won a 2011 runoff election to represent District 7 on the Memphis City Council. In November, he defeated incumbent Ophelia Ford to win his way into the Tennessee General Assembly. 

Also Tuesday, Senate Democrats elected Sen. Jeff Yarbro (District 21) of Nashville as Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman.

“Both Democrats and Republicans are elected to do what's right for the state of Tennessee,” Yarbro said. “It's time for all 33 Senators to focus on what really matters for our state, whether it’s expanding access to health care, improving our schools, or building a stronger economy. I look forward to working with each member of our caucus to improve the lives of people in Tennessee.” 

Turner saluted for ‘Service for Humanity’

Jesse H. Turner Jr., president and CEO of Tri-State Bank of Memphis, received the Service for Humanity Award from The Hobson-Goodlow Education Foundation and the Memphis Alumni Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. during the 20th Annual African American Male Image Awards Banquet held at The Hotel Memphis last Saturday (Nov. 22nd).

Turner was saluted for exemplifying the fraternity’s motto, "Culture for Service and Service for Humanity." Specifically, Turner was cited for “consistently exhibiting integrity and ethical behavior, and for valuing the worth and dignity of all mankind in his professional and community.”

The recipient of numerous awards, Turner also is known for his role in the desegregation of Christian Brothers High School, which became the first integrated high school in Shelby County with his enrollment in 1963.

MAM issues summons for tournament play

Memphis Athletic Ministries (MAM), a 501(c)3 urban youth development organization, needs help in recruiting teams for its annual youth basketball tournament to be held Dec. 29th to Jan. 3rd. 

The deadline for registration is Dec. 17th. Divisions are church recreation, other recreation, competitive, middle school and high school freshman teams for boys and girls. Every team is guaranteed three games, with most teams playing four or five games.

The MAM Classic is the largest fundraiser for Memphis Athletic Ministries, a local faith-based youth development organization. Proceeds go to support MAM’s after school academic programming for inner city youth.

The All Star Sponsor for this year’s tournament is Impact Logistics. The Pro Sponsors are Huey’s, Juice Plus and the Memphis Grizzlies.

To register, go to www.mamsports.org/classic. For more information, contact Kevin Windsor at 901-653-4484 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

BRIEFLY: In observance of World AIDS Day (Sunday, Dec. 1), free HIV/AIDS testing will be offered Dec. 1 and Dec. 2 in conjunction with support from Rep. G.A. Hardaway, Mayor AC Wharton Jr. and the City of Memphis, the Memphis Police Department, Friends for Life, Best Nurses, Inc., the Shelby County Health Department and LeBonheur Children’s Hospital. Testing sites and times: Dec. 1 – City Hall from 10 a.m. 2 p.m.; Orange Mound Senior Center from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; Hollywood Community Center from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Dec. 2 – Tillman Police Station from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; Airways Police Station from 1:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m.

BRIEFLY: The Memphis Ryan White Program will observe the 4th Annual World AIDS Sunday celebration on Dec. 7th. Faith-based congregations are asked to spend time promoting HIV awareness, testing and encouraging those living with HIV to seek lifesaving available treatment. The Ryan White Program is offering a special toolkit promotional materials featuring the “Know Now. Live Longer” campaign. Visit http://www.hivmemphis.org/resources/WorldAIDSSundayToolkit to sign up and receive materials in time for Dec, 7th.

New and expanded youth programs and services outlined

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Office of Youth Services to serve as central hub.

Teen learning labs and a Memphis Youth City Council are among the new and expanded programs touted on Tuesday by Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and the City’s Office of Youth Services .

“We share a responsibility to encourage our youth through the delivery of constructive, highly accessible opportunities, both within our schools and through recreational activities and personal growth services,” said Wharton. “But broad participation, belief in our children’s potential and the celebration of their successes are keys to creating a flourishing community, one that improves the quality of life for all of us.”

The City has conducted and currently maintains 24 youth-focused programs and events. Now one central office, the Office of Youth Services, will help coordinate the expansion of existing programs that have proven to be most effective and the implementation of new ones meant to fill in the gaps.

The new programs are: the Memphis Youth City Council, Parenting Centers, Summer Residential Program, Teen Learning Labs, the Work Program Center on Community Improvement, and the 4 YOUTH Task Force.

The Memphis Youth City Council would be composed of a group of diverse high school students, each representing a different City Council district and various schools. Council membership would rotate annually.

“This council would operate as an advisory commission to my office and the Memphis City Council regarding youth issues, affording our young citizens opportunities to directly provide input on issues that affect them, and even to propose legislation,” Wharton said. “For us to support their growth and transformation into productive adult citizens of this city, we must offer our youth a seat at the table.”

All programs – new and expanded – are designed to provide opportunities for Memphis youth in the following key areas:

* Development: to prepare them for success in careers and life; 

* Health and Wellness: to help keep them active, fit and healthy;

* Intervention and Prevention: to connect with young people where they are, promote good decision making and for a few who are most at-risk, intervene when necessary; and

* Law enforcement: building trust between young people and police, and when necessary, using proactive law enforcement strategies to keep neighborhoods safe.

“The mayor’s goals demonstrate an earnest investment in our youth that we believe will translate into improved chances for cultivating productive citizens,” said James Nelson, Director of the City's Office of Youth Services.

“We’re offering continued and improved access to programs whose goals include increased literacy, job skills development, and the establishment of positive relationships with authority figures. Our office is honored to lead the charge in seeing these ambitious but attainable goals to fruition.”

Here is a list of the expanded programs:

* 901 Bloc Squad.

* Community Center Program.

* LIFE Literacy Program.

* Memphis Ambassador Program.

* Memphis Gun Down Program.

* Summer Night Lights and Midnight Basketball Programs.

* WIN Summer Jobs Program.

(For more information, visit http://www.cityofmemphisyouth.org/images/YouthPlan.pdf.)

 

‘If I don’t he will kill me’

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Ferguson, Mo. officer gives his account of Michael Brown’s death.

by Stephen A. Crockett Jr.

The Root

For the first time since the Aug. 9 shooting pushed the name Darren Wilson into the national conscious, America got to hear the Ferguson police officer who fatally shot unarmed teen Michael Brown speak. 

From a secret location and only a day after a St. Louis grand jury decided not to charge the 28-year-old officer, Wilson told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that he was in fear for his life when he encountered the teen. He noted that he was sorry for the family’s loss but added that he would not do anything different.

“He threw the first punch,” Wilson said.

Wilson described Brown as being the instigator from the time he approached the teen. He claimed that after asking Brown and his friend to walk on the sidewalk the teen cussed him causing Wilson to confront Brown. He claims that he tried to get out of the car and Brown slammed the door on him and then punched him in the face. A tussle ensued inside the car. 

“I pulled my gun and said ‘Get back or I’m going to shoot you.’ He grabbed the gun and said, ‘your too much of a pussy to shoot me.’” He noted that he squeezed the trigger three times before a shot went off inside the car. He claims that Brown became angry; that his intensity grew and after hearing the loud shot he didn’t leave the officer but came back in to attack him again. 

“I wasn’t looking at him. I just like racked it (loaded the gun) excepting another hit and I put my gun up and fired.”

Wilson says he then exited the vehicle. Stephanopoulos asked why

“My job isn’t to just sit and wait. I have to see where this guy goes.

Wilson told Stephanopoulos that he had never used his gun prior to his encounter with Brown. He claimed that he chased Brown and that Brown stopped running, turned and faced him.

Stephanopoulos asked why. Wilson claimed that Brown’s right hand moved toward his waistband and that his left hand was balled tight into a fist. 

“He starts charging me,” Wilson said.

Stephanopoulos noted that eyewitnesses have claimed that Brown turned with his hands in the air. 

“That would be incorrect,” Wilson said. “No way.”

Wilson told Stephanopoulos that Brown started charging toward him. He claims that before he pulled the trigger he gave himself a mental check.

“Legally, can I shoot this guy? And the answer I gave myself was ‘I have too. If I don’t he will kill me.”

Wilson said he has no regrets from that Aug. 9 shooting and that he would not have done anything differently, even if Michael Brown had been white. He said that he and his new wife – Wilson got married a week ago – just want to have a normal life.

Asked if this was going to be something that haunted him, Wilson was quick to correct the verbiage.

 “I don’t think it is a haunting…It is always going to be something that happened.”

Medicare’s ‘Extra Help’ available for prescription medications

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If you have limited income and resources, you may qualify for Medicare’s Extra Help program to pay for some health care and prescription drug costs.

Making ends meet should not mean going without your medications. If you have limited income and resources, you may qualify for Medicare’s Extra Help program to pay for some health care and prescription drug costs.

Drug costs in 2015 for most people who qualify for Extra Help will be no more than $2.65 for each generic drug and $6.60 for each brand-name drug.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services estimates that more than 2 million people with Medicare may be eligible for Extra Help, but aren’t currently enrolled to take advantage of these savings. A recent law changed how your income and assets are counted:

  • Life insurance policies don’t count as resources.
  • Any help you get from relatives, friends, and others to pay for household expenses – like food, mortgage, rent, heating fuel or gas, electricity, water, and property taxes – doesn’t count as income.

Many qualify and don’t know it

Even if you were previously turned down for Extra Help due to income or resource levels, you should reapply. If you qualify, you’ll get help paying for Medicare prescription drug coverage premiums, copayments, and deductibles. To qualify, you must make less than $17,505 a year (or $23,595 for married couples). Even if your annual income is higher, you still may be able to get some extra help. Your resources must also be limited to $13,440 (or $26,860 for married couples). Resources include bank accounts, stocks, and bonds, but not your house or car.

No cost or obligation to apply

It’s easy and free to apply for “Extra Help.” You or a family member, trusted counselor, or caregiver can apply online at socialsecurity.gov/i1020 or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213. TTY users should call 1-800-325-0778. All the information you give is confidential. You can also get help in your community from your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), Area Agencies on Aging (AAA), the Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRC), and many tribal organizations. For information about how to contact these organizations, visit Eldercare.gov.

To learn more about Medicare prescription drug coverage, visit Medicare.gov, or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048.

SOURCE: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Debt collectors target the elderly

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What should have been the proverbial golden years are often worsened by aggressive debt collectors who hound older Americans about debts they may not even owe.

by Charlene Crowell

NNPA News Service

For succeeding generations, retirement has been the time when older Americans reaped the benefits of their years in the workplace. Oftentimes at ceremonies, workers would receive a gold watch – a symbol of their entry into retirement and an era of “golden years.”

Today, few if any count on getting a gold watch. And what should have been the proverbial golden years are often tarnished by a struggle to keep pace with rising costs of living. These financial challenges are often worsened by aggressive debt collectors who hound older Americans about debts they may not even owe. Sometimes, these collectors threaten to garnish their limited benefits.

“It’s increasingly common for older Americans to carry debts into their retirement years, and consumers living on fixed incomes often struggle to pay off these debts,” said Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). “Older Americans deserve to be treated with the respect they have earned.”

According to the CFPB, debt collection is a multi-billion industry with more than 4,500 firms nationwide. Moreover, consumers have submitted more complaints to the CFPB about debt collection than mortgages, credit cards or any other financial product or service. A recent analysis of complaints received by the CFPB from July 10, 2013 until September 30 of this year revealed that one out of three was about debt collection.

Threats to garnish federal benefits such as Social Security or Veterans Administration benefits are particularly distressing to older consumers when these items are their primary sources of income. Similarly, older consumers with memory loss or other cognitive impairments are particularly vulnerable to harassment and scams.

While some creditors may collect their own debts, others hire third-party debt collectors. To make matters even more complicated, a single debt may be sold multiple times to different debt buyers.

A third of the complaints received by CFPB revealed that consumers could not identify the original source of the debt. Regardless of the source of debt, many older consumers also experienced repeated attempts by collectors to pursue debts of deceased family members – despite them having no responsibility for the debt. For others, even after judicial probate was concluded, or the funds from the deceased have been exhausted, harassing phone calls still continued.

Medical debt, another frequently-reported complaint, involved collectors pressing for payments at the same time the consumer is trying to resolve medical billing disputes and questioning whether the item in question is eligible for insurance coverage. In other cases, debt collectors make repeated attempts to collect on bills already covered by insurance.

The confusion and frustration felt by consumers is also aggravated by collectors calling over bills appearing on their credit report when no prior attempt communicated the debt in question by the original creditor.

Earlier this year, in a separate report, the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) found scant regulation allows profiteers to take advantage of financially-distressed consumers. Many times debt collectors secure court judgments for debts that may not even be owed. A 2009 Federal Trade Commission analysis of 3.9 million consumer accounts, found only 6 percent of the accounts came with any documentation.

To help older consumers to cope with debt collectors, CFPB released an advisory that includes specific things consumers should do when faced with a debt collector. It encourages consumers to verify a debt claim before promising or paying it. In instances in which a consumer knows a debt is not their own, CFPB’s advice is to dispute all inaccurate claims.  The advisory also includes sample letters to help consumers formalize their concerns.

For CRL, the growth of debt collection issues is of particular concern.

“American consumers are profoundly and negatively affected by wrongful debt collection tactics on a daily basis,” said Lisa Stifler, a CRL policy counsel. “No one should be forced to deal with illegal collection activity, and debt collectors should not be allowed to exploit seniors’ vulnerability in order to make a profit.”

No one – and especially our older Americans — deserves to become financial prey. As families look forward to the holiday season, remember to help older loved ones remain free from profiteers. Love them enough to help them defend their financial rights.

(Charlene Crowell is a communications manager with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)