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Is Trump the Worst of the Worst?

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I’ve been as focused on the Trump impeachment and presidential primary dramas as any other American political commentator in recent months and weeks. At the same time, I’ve been keeping notes on developments overshadowed by the non-defenestration of Donald Trump and the candidate contests in Iowa and New Hampshire. The Trump-led march to apocalypse has been continuing apace beneath the bigger headlines, my journal suggests.

Most reasonably attentive U.S. citizens know that Australia was struck in January by epic and lethal wildfires that followed extreme drought there. Far fewer Americans know the drought and fires were the consequences of anthropogenic (capitalogenic, really) global warming driven by the excessive extraction and burning of fossil fuels. Fewer still know that Australia is a leading climate change culprit thanks to its large-scale mining and export of coal and that its Prime Minister Scott Morrison has stood with Trump and Brazil’s eco-fascist President Jair Bolosonaro as a leading global climate-denier.

Even mildly observant American news consumers know Trump murdered a top Iranian military commander in a targeted assassination drone attack in Iraq last month — an action that brought the U.S. to the brink of a major war in the Middle East. Few Americans know this reckless and provocative attack crossed a new (anti-)“constitutional Rubicon.”  The open U.S. execution of a governmental military leader atop a foreign state with which the U.S. was not formally at war was an unprecedented U.S. violation of national and international law. That the murder took place without the permission of Iraq’s government made Trump’s transgression more audaciously criminal.

Most Americans are certainly aware a deadly coronavirus broke out in China and has spread around the world, including to the U.S. Far fewer Americans know the Trump White House’s war on “the administrative state” (really on those parts of the federal government that don’t serve concentrated wealth and power or that punish the working and lower classes) has rolled back the federal government’s ability to respond effectively to pandemics.

Trump has slashed funding for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its infectious disease research. For 2020, he proposes cutting the CDC budget by $1.3 billion, 20% below the previous year’s level, raising serious concerns among public health experts about the nation’s capacity to protect the citizenry against a deadly contagion.

“Cutting the CDC in the middle of a pandemic,” writes Esquire’s Charles Pierce, “is not viable in a functioning republic. We do not currently have one.”

Government-imposed poverty could also finish you off. Also lost in the news fog of impeachment and presidential primaries were two cruel White House assaults on the poor. In December, Trump issued an executive order that will remove 700,000 deeply impoverished American adults from SNAP (food stamp) benefits. Charities and churches are gearing up to try to meet a fraction of the need this vicious policy will produce among “surplus” Americans who have been deemed disposable by the administration.

Two weeks ago, the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court (on which two Trump appointees confirmed by the right-wing U.S. Senate have swung the balance of judicial power to the far-starboard side) ruled the Department of Homeland Security can implement Trump’s nativist, Stephen Miller-drafted “public charge rule.”  This malicious policy lets U.S. immigration officials deny green cards, visas and/or admission to the U.S. on the grounds that current or prospective immigrants might be “likely” to use government benefits, including food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Section 8 housing assistance, federal housing vouchers and Supplemental Security Income. The rule makes past or imagined future receipt of public benefits (including state and local cash assistance) a barrier to legal status. It lets immigration officers consider low English proficiency, low income, bad credit scores, medical problems and lack of private health insurance as reasons to deny immigrants green cards and visas.

This spiteful “wealth test” will affect an estimated 4 million immigrants a year. According to the American Friends Service Committee,

This change will force immigrant families to choose between their health and well-being and lawful immigration status: an impossible choice that harms everybody.  If they access benefits, they may leave their family vulnerable to separation. Or they may forgo needed assistance.

Another underappreciated story takes us back to climate and the southern reaches of the planet.  It was recently reported to little fanfare that West Antarctica’s massive Thwaites Glacier has been melting at a dramatically rising rate thanks to warming ocean undercurrents. The cause of this ominous erosion, which could raise global sea levels by 10 feet, is the kind of capitalist-led climate change the Very Stable Genius tells the world not to be “alarmist” about even as he shreds environmental regulations, forbids federal employees from mentioning climate change and otherwise acts to accelerate the transformation of the entire planet into a giant greenhouse gas chamber.

Trump’s 2021 fiscal-year budget proposal slashes funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by more than 25%. This is hardly surprising. Trump has issued executive orders undoing regulations that protect children from mercury poisoning and try to preserve the nation’s water supplies and public lands.

Along the way, Noam Chomsky notes in a recent interview, Trump continues “to dismantle the last vestiges of the arms control regime that has provided some limited degree of security from terminal nuclear war.” Even worse, perhaps, Trump has recently furthered prospects for such war by deploying a highly provocative new, “low-yield tactical’” nuclear weapon (the W76-2, requested, designed and produced under the Trump administration) aboard a U.S. nuclear submarine.

Not content merely to smite the poor, immigrants, his political enemies, constitutional checks and balances and the rule of law at home and abroad, the president seems dedicated to bringing forth the collapse of a decent and organized human existence — and indeed the downfall of life on Earth. It’s no wonder Chomsky calls Trump “the most dangerous criminal in human history.”

Hitler’s goal, Chomsky notes, “was to rid the German-run world of Jews, Roma, homosexuals and other ‘deviants,’ along with tens of millions of Slav ‘Untermenschen.’ But Hitler was not dedicated with fervor to destroying the prospects of organized human life on Earth in the not-distant future [along with millions of other species].”

A socially and environmentally concerned Christian I know half-jokingly muses if “the president of the United States is the Antichrist.”

Sadly, the corporate-imperial Democrats seem to have been determined to indirectly reelect “the most dangerous criminal in human history” by handing him the long diversionary gifts of RussiaGate and UkraineGate and working furiously to prevent the presidential nomination of Bernie Sanders — the presidential candidate most ready, willing and able to mobilize enough lower-, working-, and middle-class voters to defeat Trump (forcing him to act on his clear threats to defy an electoral count that doesn’t go his way) in November.

None of Trump’s worst crimes were included in the Democratic-led House of Representatives’ case against “the most dangerous criminal in human history.” As with the Richard Nixon impeachment hearings, the charges centered not on the president’s most terrible transgressions bur rather “on his illegal acts to harm Democrats,” as Chomsky puts it.

The Democrats never had a chance of removing Trump through impeachment, thanks to Republican control of the Senate.

My nomination for either the stupidest or the most cynical thing said by a U.S. senator so far this year is Susan Collins’ statement that Trump will change his authoritarian ways since impeachment by the House taught him “a pretty big lesson.” The truth is quite the opposite. Trump learned yet again as throughout his long criminal career that he can get away with yet more nasty shit. As the Trump presidency’s incisive chronicler Michael Wolff observes in his latest book, “Siege: Trump Under Fire”:

One of the many odd aspects of Trump’s presidency was that he did not see being president, either the responsibilities or the exposure, as being all that different from his pre-presidential life. He had endured almost countless investigations in his long career. He had been involved in various kinds of litigation for the better part of forty-five years. He was a fighter who, with brazenness and aggression, got out of fixes that would have ruined a weaker, less wily player. That was his essential business strategy: what doesn’t kill me strengthens me. Though he was wounded again and again, he never bled out.

Trump’s longstanding modus operandi has been validated again: he can tough it out and emerge more powerful than before.

Hence the “shocking” aftermath of Trump’s Senate “exoneration”: the cold but unsurprising firings of impeachment witnesses Gordon Sondland and Alexander Vindman along with Vindman’s twin brother (authoritarian rulers like to punish whole families); the announcement that 70 “Obama holdovers” were or will be dismissed from the National Security Council, and the “rule-of-law” meltdown involving Trump and his attorney general’s norm-smashing intervention to veto federal prosecutors’ sentencing recommendations in the case of convicted Trump thug Roger Stone.

Pardons loom for Stone and other top Trump crime associates not named Michael Cohen. Is the president planning purge trials for after the election?

Faced with this openly authoritarian, barefacedly transgressive “beyond the rule-of-law” behavior, liberal cable-news types can do little more than shake their heads and tell viewers that ordinary Americans “only have one recourse left:” our holy, once-every-1,460-days chance to spend two minutes in a major party voting booth. In “liberal”-bourgeois media outlets, it isn’t just about keeping the ballot box sanitized against Sanders “socialism” (New Deal social progressivism). It’s also about keeping the people from protesting out in the streets, which millions of them really ought and need to be doing when the world’s most powerful office is held by “the most dangerous criminal in human history” — and when the normal bourgeois-constitutional and electoral mechanisms for containing and removing that criminal are being revealed as dangerously inadequate.

Chomsky’s above-quoted interview on Donald “Worse Than Hitler” Trump ends by praising Sanders for sparking a movement that “would proceed beyond the narrow realm of electoral politics to far broader and constant activism and engagement in public affairs.” That strikes me as more of an aspirational than an accurate description of the Sanders phenomenon, which by my observation is 97% electoralist so far. The sooner it goes beyond and becomes what Chomsky says it is, the better. Nothing Sanders is calling for will have a snowball’s chance in hell without massive mobilization beneath and beyond the election cycle.

 

 

 

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Fall 2020 Brings Increased Regulatory Focus on Financial Institution Detection of Human Trafficking | Moore & Van Allen PLLC

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On October 15, 2020, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network of the U.S. Department of Treasury (FinCEN) released its Supplemental Advisory on Identifying and Reporting Human Trafficking and Related Activity (Supplemental Advisory). The last time FinCEN provided guidance on identifying trafficking in anti-money laundering (AML) processes was in Guidance on Recognizing Activity that May be Associated with Human Smuggling and Human Trafficking – Financial Red Flags on September 11, 2014. The evolving tactics of human traffickers and behaviors of victims required updated guidance in order for financial institutions to better meet Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) obligations to assist the government in detecting and preventing money laundering. 

The Supplemental Advisory focuses on four emerging tactics used by human traffickers to carry out and hide the proceeds from their illicit operations: front companies, exploitative employment practices, funnel accounts, and alternative payment methods. Front companies are lawful, licensed, and registered businesses which are used by traffickers to comingle the illicit proceeds generated from their scheme of human exploitation with that of a legitimate business. Examples include massage parlors, nail salons, even electrician services, and faith-based mission work. 

Labor trafficking can be harder to detect than sex trafficking for AML departments. FinCEN’s Supplemental Advisory alerts financial institutions to examples of exploitative labor practices, including visa fraud, wage withholding, and recruitment fee advances. Note that in 2019, the Federal Acquisition Regulation: Combating Trafficking in Persons was amended to address prohibited recruitment fees and broadened contractor responsibility for violative recruitment fees in supply chains. 

Funnel accounts continue to be a common tactic wherein a trafficker coerces a victim to open one or more bank accounts in their own name, and then directs them to deposit, transfer, wire, and withdraw monies in amounts below a reporting threshold, for the benefit the trafficker or the enterprise. Because the accounts are often held exclusively in the victims’ names, the trafficker remains anonymous. 

Such account activity may lead to an Unusual Activity Report or Suspicious Activity Report but that would erroneously target the victim, not the perpetrator. Accounts may be closed by the financial institution, or at the direction of the trafficker, following overdraft or low balances, which can cause victims to incur bad credit status and prevent them from accessing financial services in the future. 

The Supplemental Advisory further alerts financial institutions to the prolific use of prepaid cards, virtual currencies, smartphone cash applications, and third-party payment processors to advertise their sex trafficking business and receive payment. 

Although the indicators list addended to the Supplemental Advisory is not significantly different than past iterations, it adds a set of case studies. Specific perpetrator and victim vignettes are effective in modernizing detection tools as they allow financial institutions to keep their pulse on real life examples relayed by law enforcement and survivor advocates. The Supplemental Advisory also reminds financial institutions that they are protected from liability for information sharing afforded under Section 314(b) of the USA Patriot Act. Traffickers often implicate multiple financial institutions and only through a wider lens and open communication can otherwise lawful-appearing activity be identified as suspicious.  

Finally, the Supplemental Advisory notes FinCEN’s Customer Due Diligence Rule, promulgated in 2018, which generally requires some financial institutions to identify beneficial owners of commercial customers. Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, “whoever knowingly benefits, financially or by receiving anything of value” may be subject to criminal and civil liability. Therefore, diligence and monitoring processes are to include potential third-party participants in an exploitive scheme.  

FinCEN’s advisory on human trafficking is timely. In the last few months, regulators have signaled increased attention on financial institution responses to human trafficking. This past summer, Deutsche Bank was fined $150M by The New York State Department of Financial Services (“NYDFS”) for compliance failures related to client Jeffrey Epstein, his sex trafficking enterprise and correspondent banks. In the Consent Order, NYDFS found the Deutsche Bank “conducted business in an unsafe and unsound manner [and] failed to maintain an effective and compliant anti-money laundering program.” This September, Westpac Bank was fined $920M USD by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Australia’s financial intelligence, anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism regulator) for failures in AML reporting, record keeping and detection, including transfers indicative of child sex trafficking. This fine is the largest paid to an Australian regulator for violation of money laundering laws to date. Also in September, the United Kingdom announced that the U.K. Modern Slavery Act of 2015 will be strengthened to (i) allocate more funding to enforce its requirements and (ii) mandate that companies’ modern slavery statements cover certain topics ranging from due diligence to risk assessment. 

Increased regulatory focus on financial institution responses to human trafficking deserves attention.

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Can I Negotiate a Bad Credit Auto Loan?

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Yes, you can negotiate your deal on a bad credit car loan, though you may not have the same leverage as someone with a better credit score. Without the strength of a high credit score behind you, you may not be able to qualify for as low of an interest rate or monthly payment as you’re looking for. But a lot of things associated with an auto loan can be negotiated.

Preparing to Negotiate a Bad Credit Auto Loan

Before you go toe-to-toe with a dealer, make sure you know what kind of power you have in this arena. This means knowing your credit score and what’s on your credit reports. Without this information, you’re powerless to push back against a lender’s assessment of your credit situation.

Auto Credit Express Tip: Remember, you’re most likely going to be interacting with the special finance manager at a dealership, who talks to the lender on your behalf. The dealer isn’t responsible for the rates and terms you qualify for, and the lender can’t determine how much a dealership is willing to cut a deal.

The only way to know you deserve better terms than you’re being offered is to do your research. Find out what the average car loan looks like for people in similar situations. You don’t want to go into a dealer with unrealistic expectations.

  1. First, get your credit score and credit reports. Now is a great time to do this, because the three major credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax – are offering U.S. consumers free weekly access to their credit reports. This deal only lasts until April 2021; you can request a copy of your reports by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.
  2. Next, look online for some national averages on auto lending interest rates and see where you fall on the FICO credit scoring model. Knowing where you stand enables you to prepare for the next steps in your car loan: your budget.
  3. The final step to getting ready to negotiate on your auto loan is to plan your car buying budget. If you don’t know what you have to work with, or how to accurately calculate the out-the-door and overall costs of your auto loan, then you won’t have a leg to stand on when talking to a dealership.

What Are You Negotiating For?

Without a plan or a budget to refer to, you can’t have a goal to negotiate for. When it comes to a bad credit car loan, there’s no point in negotiating just because you can.

You should have a set goal in mind, whether it’s a target interest rate, a specific loan term, or a set monthly payment amount. Don’t give these things away to the dealer, though. Keeping your numbers close to the vest is what gives you the power to make a deal on your terms.

In order to get an auto loan deal you can live with, you have to know what you can afford. To find this out, you can do a few simple calculations that the lender does when determining if your budget can handle a car loan. This is your debt to income (DTI) ratio.

Your DTI ratio lets you know how much of your monthly finances are already being used by your existing monthly bills, including an auto loan and car insurance. If you’re using more than 45% to 50% of your monthly income, a lender may not be willing to add to that burden.

To see how much auto loan you could qualify for, and to find out if those monthly payments fit into your budget, you can check out our car loan and monthly payment calculators.

Know What You Can Negotiate

In order to negotiate on your bad credit auto loan, you have to know what you can and can’t change your lender’s mind on. Not everything on a car loan contract is negotiable.

Here’s a look at what you can have a crack at negotiating:

  • Can I Negotiate a Bad Credit Car Loan?Vehicle selling price – The first thing you should know you can negotiate on when it comes to an auto loan is the price of the car. The sticker price on a new vehicle typically lists the MSRP, or manufacturer suggested sale price, and may list a dealership price, too. You can ask for any price you want, but the dealer may not agree to honor it.
  • Your interest rate – Your APR is likely to be a bit higher than you’d like with bad credit, but you can always ask a dealership or lender if what they’re offering is the best rate you qualify for. Often it’s not, there’s no rule that says dealers have to offer you the lowest rate or best deal that you’re qualified for by a lender. With that said, you don’t have to accept a deal that stretches you too thin, either.
  • Your loan term – Shorter loan terms mean higher monthly payments, but stretching your loan too long means a higher overall cost. Being a payment shopper, only looking at the monthly payment and ignoring the overall loan cost, isn’t the place to be with poor credit.
  • Down payment amount – When you have credit challenges, you generally have to meet a down payment requirement set by your lender. However, it may not be set in stone. Depending on your other rates and terms, you may be able to negotiate the amount you need up front.
  • Your trade-in – If you’re using a trade-in to cover some of your down payment amount, you may be able to negotiate what you’re getting out of it. It also helps to know the value of your trade-in before you head to the dealership so you can have more leverage in negotiation.
  • Prepayment penalties – If you have to take on a longer term to get a more favorable monthly payment, you can save money in the long run by paying more on your loan whenever possible. Look over your contract carefully to make sure you aren’t penalized for this, or ask the lender to remove the clause if you are.
  • Optional features and equipment – Some features on the vehicle you’re choosing could be optional, and carry additional fees which can be negotiated on. Things like window tinting, fabric protection, and certain optional packages like wheel protection or cargo nets could be charges coming from the dealer. You don’t have to agree to these. This also goes for extended warranties and GAP insurance coverage.
  • Dealership documentation fees – A “doc fee” on any auto loan contract, which dealers charge for preparing your paperwork and talking to the lender on your behalf, is pretty standard, but the amount varies. There’s no reason to pay through the nose for this, and many states cap the amount you can be charged. Expect a minimum doc fee, but try to lower it as much as possible.

With all these things to haggle over, there are three main things that are non-negotiable when it comes to a car loan (which are set by the state, so there’s no getting around them):

  1. Taxes
  2. Title fees
  3. License fees

Ready to Negotiate Your Next Car Loan?

If you’ve tried negotiating on a bad credit auto loan in the past and were unsuccessful, don’t give up! Just because one dealership isn’t willing to work with you doesn’t mean that others aren’t.

Remember to keep your search for a car loan to a two-week window. If you apply for multiple loans of the same kind with different lenders within that time frame, you stop multiple hard credit inquiries from affecting your credit score.

Additionally, when you have bad credit and need an auto loan, it’s in your best interest to make sure you’re applying with a subprime lender at a special finance dealer. These lenders are able to help people in many tough credit situations, such as bad credit, no credit, and even bankruptcy.

Here at Auto Credit Express, we’ve cultivated a nationwide network of special finance dealerships, and we want to get you matched to one in your area! We’ll get right to work for you after you fill out our fast, free, and zero-obligation car loan request form.

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Visitors to local dealership website can get their credit score for free

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Honda of Victoria provides free credit score and buying power tool online for all users

VICTORIA, Texas (PRWEB) October 24, 2020

Honda of Victoria, a dealership serving Victoria and the entire surrounding area, provides a tool on their website likely to bring a smile to the face of many shoppers: the ability to obtain one’s credit score for free. The TransUnion VantageScore page on the Honda of Victoria website provides credit score, interest rate, terms and borrowing power information instantly to users.

A Social Security Number is not required to utilize the Honda of Victoria system. The dealership assures users that the system is safe and secure. Getting one’s score does not affect one’s credit, and the service is available in English as well as Spanish.

In addition to the free credit score tool, Honda of Victoria allows customers to get pre-approval for financing online. The dealership makes a point of accepting both good and bad credit, and welcomes all first-time buyers. A finance team is on hand to help every customer find the finance package that works best for their own particularly needs.

To apply for credit pre-approval, users need only fill out a form on the site. The form requires users to enter their contact info, employment info and the vehicle that they are interested in.

Those interested in checking their credit score for free are encouraged to go to the Honda of Victoria website at http://www.hondaofvictoria.com. Alternatively, individuals can reach the dealership by phone through dialing 361-575-0495. Finally, those who wear a mask and practice proper social distancing procedures are welcome to visit the dealership location itself at 116 Huvar Street, Victoria.

For the original version on PRWeb visit: https://www.prweb.com/releases/visitors_to_local_dealership_website_can_get_their_credit_score_for_free/prweb17498137.htm

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