Immigrant customers welcomed

first_img“They are impacting the economy,” Passel said. “The unauthorized are explicitly coming for an economic basis.” While credit card use among the nation’s 42 million Hispanics is on the rise, a substantial number of Latino households don’t have access to credit, according a survey conducted by the National Council of La Raza, which found that 80 percent of American households use credit cards compared with only 56 percent of Hispanic households. For years, U.S. banks have made attracting immigrants a major focus of their business strategy, working to sell services that include everything from traditional checking accounts to wire transfers used to send money to relatives back home. Customers don’t typically need a Social Security number to open a standard banking account. Instead, they can identify themselves by using an ID card provided by the Mexican Consulate to its citizens, known as a matricula consular, or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) issued by the Internal Revenue Service. At Bank of America, the pilot program in Los Angeles allows customers to use such forms of identification to also sign up for a credit card. The card is similar to secured cards offered to those with poor credit: It requires customers to have an account with the bank that’s been in good standing for at least three months and comes with a reimbursable up-front fee of $99. “This initiative lets customers build a solid credit history with a leading bank,” Bank of America spokeswoman Betsy Weinberger said. Still, Camarota said most Americans don’t think businesses should go out of their way to cater to illegal immigrants. “Some say it’s bad corporate citizenship,” he said. Critics of illegal immigration have said providing credit to illegal immigrants further embeds the population into American society. Many worry that without a Social Security number, the bank can’t be sure the card’s customers won’t use the credit for criminal activity, such as terrorism or drug trafficking. “We just see this as another step to put our country at risk so they can make a few extra dollars,” said Rod Woodard, director of NC Listen, an immigration reform organization based in Cary, N.C. The attention has rattled America’s largest retail bank. Lewis responded to the controversy in a column in The Wall Street Journal, writing the bank is complying with the provisions of the USA Patriot Act, which set up the guidelines that allows the bank to accept official identification sources issued by foreign governments – including the matricula consular. “And I observe no shortage of irony in the efforts of those whose first concern is national security, but who seek to undermine a regulatory structure that was designed in large part to thwart terrorism,” Lewis wrote. He said only 16 percent of customers to sign up for the card so far lack a Social Security number.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! CHARLOTTE, N.C. – When news broke that Bank of America Corp. was testing a new credit card available to Los Angeles customers who may be illegal immigrants, the reaction was predictably harsh. Outspoken critics of illegal immigration called for a boycott and said the bank could be supporting terrorists and drug traffickers. Some outraged customers closed accounts and sent back their cards, chopped into little pieces. The bank’s chief executive, Ken Lewis, admitted that “finding oneself in the middle of a heated national debate is never pleasant.” But Bank of America isn’t the first to offer such a card: Citigroup Inc. said it has done so for years, and Wells Fargo & Co. says it’s thinking about it. The cards are merely the latest progression for an industry that has spent millions to attract customers in the country’s growing Latino community – and among the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. They also reflect a fact faced by every retail business in the United States. While they can’t legally employ undocumented workers, there are few, if any, restrictions on welcoming them as customers. “As a business owner, you sell to whomever comes into your store. You sell to whomever buys from you online. It’s easy, normally,” said Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington. “Just in some cases where specific identification is needed, like in financial services, it’s more complicated.” But getting less so. Last month, Bank of America said it had started a pilot program in the Los Angeles area late last year that didn’t require a Social Security number to sign up for a credit card. The Charlotte-based bank insists the card isn’t specifically designed to attract illegal immigrants, and says that so far, it has not. The bank hasn’t decided if it will offer the card elsewhere, but it would likely be popular with a population that generally lacks access to something as common in most American wallets as the dollar bill and a driver’s license. “It’s a no brainer. It’s a very large market,” said Jim Johnson, director of the Urban Investment Strategies Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “The bank is just the latest example of a major corporation recognizing the impact of doing business with Hispanics.” In 2005, the nation’s 6.6 million illegal immigrant families had an average annual income of $29,500 and accounted for nearly $200 billion in purchasing power, a figure that’s only expected to grow, said Pew Hispanic Center demographer Jeff Passel. last_img read more

Balcony walkway collapses

first_imgPASADENA – A balcony walkway in a two-story building partially collapsed Thursday, briefly blocking the door to a first-floor doctor’s office but causing no injuries, authorities said. Eight people were temporarily stuck in the office. “The ceiling was so low the people trapped inside couldn’t open the door. Now it’s safe,” said fire Capt. Felipe Niquete. “We opened the door for them so they could get out.” More than 100 tenants of the downtown Park Center office building at 221 E. Walnut St. were evacuated after the interior atrium balcony collapsed around 10 a.m., said Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian. The building has a plant-filled interior courtyard. Veronica Martinez, a medical assistant in the doctor’s office, said construction crews had been working in the building. “Then we kind of heard a bunch of commotion outside,” she said. “Our door wouldn’t open.” Martinez and her colleagues – a nurse practitioner and endocrinologist Dr. Dorothea E. Spambalg – had five patients in the office and continued to work. “I don’t know. Work ethic,” shrugged Martinez. She also called other patients to tell them not to come in. Firefighters shored up the slumping balcony with wooden beams. The building was closed until further notice and the investigation was turned over to building inspectors. “Construction is more than likely the cause,” Derderian said.last_img read more

Juventus complete double with seventh straight Serie A title

first_img0Shares0000Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon celebrates © AFP / TIZIANA FABIROME, Italy, May 14 – Juventus sealed a seventh straight Serie A title on Sunday after a goalless draw against ten-man Roma at the Stadio Olimpico.The Turin giants had needed just a point to officially seal another title and become the first team to complete the league and Cup double for four consecutive seasons. “7th scudetto in a row! Mind-blowing!,” tweeted Juve’s Swiss star Stephan Lichsteiner.Roma played the final twenty minutes a man down after Radja Nainggolan was sent off for a second yellow card after a foul on Argentina striker Paulo Dybala.It is the 34th Scudetto in Juventus’s history.Massimiliano Allegri’s side also won the Italian Cup in the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday with a 4-0 win over AC Milan.With one game left to play Juventus cannot be caught by second-placed Napoli who are four points behind after winning 2-0 at Sampdoria on Sunday.Eusebio Di Francesco’s Roma team had already sealed their Champions League place next season after Inter Milan’s 2-1 loss against Sassuolo.“Juventus has a special mentality that has been built up over the years, they are a club that manages to stay united and compact in difficult times, and that’s what the other teams have to do,” said Di Francesco.“We must not give up, we have a lot of young players who are new to this level, we also have to improve the group and strengthen where we are a little less strong.”Juventus had early chances with Edin Dzeko firing over, a Lorenzo Pellegrini right footer flying wide and Aleksandar Kolarov’s free-kick hitting the side netting.Paulo Dybala threatened early and broke through early in the second half after an Alex Sandro cross but the goal was disallowed because the Argentina striker was offside.Nainggolan received two yellow cards in the space of five minutes and left Roma down to 10 men for the final 20 minutes.But Juventus did not take advantage of their advantage although Dybala did have penalty appeals.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)last_img read more

New West investors buy up open space near parks, forests

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.But arriving here already rich and in love with the landscape, he said, also means his profit motive is different. “A lot of it is more for fun than for making money,” said Foley, who estimates he has invested about $125 million in Montana in the past few years, mostly in real estate. The rise of a new landed gentry in the West is partly another expression of gilded age economics in America; the superwealthy elite wades ashore where it will. With the timber industry in steep decline, recreation is pushing aside logging as the biggest undertaking in the national forests and grasslands, making nearby private tracts more desirable and valuable to people who enjoy outdoor activities and ample elbow room and who have the means to take title to what they want. Some old-line logging companies, including Plum Creek Timber, the country’s largest private landowner, are cashing in, putting tens of thousands of wooded acres on the market from Montana to Oregon. Plum Creek, which owns about 1.2 million acres here in Montana alone, is getting up to $29,000 an acre for land that was worth perhaps $500 an acre for timber-cutting. WHITEFISH, Mont. – William P. Foley II pointed to the mountain. Owns it, mostly. A timber company began logging in view of his front yard a few years back. He thought they were cutting too much, so he bought the land. Foley belongs to a new wave of investors and landowners across the American West who are snapping up open spaces as private playgrounds on the borders of national parks and national forests. In style and temperament, this new money differs greatly from the Western land barons of old – the timber magnates, copper kings and cattlemen who created the extraction-based economy that dominated the region for a century. Foley, 62, standing by his private pond, his horses grazing in the distance, proudly calls himself a conservationist who wants Montana to stay as wild as possible. That does not mean no development and no profit. Foley, the chairman of a major title insurance company, Fidelity National Financial, also owns a chain of Montana restaurants, a ski resort and a huge cattle ranch on which he is building homes. “Everybody wants to buy a 640-acre section of forest that’s next to the U.S. Forest Service or one of the wilderness areas,” said Plum Creek’s president and chief executive, Rick Holley. As a result, population is surging in areas surrounding national forests and national parks, with open spaces being carved up into sprawling wooded plots, enough for a house and no nosy neighbors. Here in Flathead County, on the western edge of Glacier National Park, the number of real estate transactions, mostly for open land, rose by 30 percent from 2003 to 2006, according to state figures. The county’s population is up 44 percent since 1990.The U.S. Forest Service projects that over the next 25 years, an area the size of Maine – all of it bordering the national forests and grasslands – will face development pressure and increased housing density. But the equally important force is the change in ownership. According to a Forest Service study, not yet published, more than 1.1 million new families became owners of an acre or more of private forest from 1993 to 2006 in the lower 48 states, a 12 percent increase. And almost all the net growth, about 7 million acres, was in the Rocky Mountain region. Institutions, pension funds and real estate investment trusts have been particularly aggressive buyers. Over the last 10 years, at least 40 million acres of private forest land have changed hands nationwide, according to Bob Izlar, the director of the Center for Forest Business at the University of Georgia. It is a turnover that Izlar said was unmatched at least since the Great Depression. In ways that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago, environmentalists and representatives of the timber industry are reaching across the table, drafting plans that would get loggers back into the national forests in exchange for agreements that would set aside certain areas for protection.last_img read more

NFL: Head first

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGift Box shows no rust in San Antonio Stakes win at Santa Anita Such random acts of kindness might surprise people who know the Steelers’ All-Pro safety only for his wild hair and wild-eyed play, which seems to earn him as many personal-foul penalties as it does plaudits. But when Polamalu, who will lead Pittsburgh into Indianapolis in an AFC Divisional playoff game Sunday, sheds his uniform and wraps his hair into a bun, it’s as if he’s transformed, from warrior to ascetic. He speaks softly and gently, as if in an amplified whisper. If the subject is not Xs and Os, for which his answers are brief and rote, he is thoughtful and engaging. “He has an intellectual bent to him. He likes to know the why and wherefore,” Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. “He’s probably the exact opposite on the field.” In the locker room, Polamalu is considered a good teammate, but not one of the guys. When teammates at USC tried to drag him to parties at the Playboy Mansion, he passed. Not once in his three years in Pittsburgh, he says, has he been out to a bar or night club. He’d rather be home with Theodora and their three dogs, studying video, reading, or pursuing his passions outside of football, which have ranged over the years from cultivating orchids and wood carving to fly-fishing and wine-making. “The stereotype of the pro athlete – the guy who flaunts his money, has lots of cars, jewelry, women, that’s not Troy,” said fellow Steelers safety Chris Hope. As compliments go, it’s not a bad one to Polamalu. He grew up in a family of football players, a half-dozen relatives having excelled at the sport. His brother, Kaio Aumua, played at UTEP; his cousin, Nicky Sualua, played at Ohio State and then with the Cincinnati Bengals and Dallas Cowboys; and his uncle, Kennedy Pola, was a fullback at USC and now is the Jacksonville Jaguars’ running backs coach. Polamalu figures one of the first sentences he uttered was that he wanted to be a football player. Still, he never envisioned himself as just a football player. “Some people are attracted to acting or any big job for the prestige,” said Polamalu, 24, who has been named to the Pro Bowl the last two seasons. “But some people act because they love to act and some people play football because they love to play football. I have the feeling I have a calling to play football. “I won’t say I don’t do it for the fans, but I don’t do it for prestige and to get my face out there so I can be famous.” In a city like Pittsburgh, where fans ask to be buried in Steelers jerseys, that can be problematic. Having your dinner interrupted by autograph seekers is one thing; having them knock on your front door is another. “You can take any guy on the 53-man roster and stand them next to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and walk down the street here and people would go, ‘Oh, that’s so and so – and who are those other two people?’ ” Polamalu said. “It’s nice that you can affect people’s lives in a positive way, but there’s a down side to it. Sometimes people can be a little insensitive.” And so, while Polamalu did pose for a Sports Illustrated cover earlier this season, you’re unlikely to see him endorsing any hair-care products. It is also why he declined a Pittsburgh reporter’s request to discuss his good deeds for a story. “We didn’t do it for (the attention), we did it for the moment,” Polamalu said. “It’s not like we’re just paying for their meal. We’ll write a note and give them a Bible verse and put that on the receipt because we really don’t feel like we want any prestige.” Religion plays a central role in the Polamalus’ lives. He went to Catholic schools, and spent time in Mormon and Protestant churches when he was younger, but there was no epiphany. Instead, as he grew older he began to consider where he came from, and his faith deepened. “My parents divorced before I turned 1. All three of my older brothers and sisters were in and out of jail. My brother (overdosed). When I was a kid, I started getting in trouble, which made me move to Oregon, where I was raised by my aunt and uncle, away from my immediate family,” said Polamalu, who lived in Santa Ana until the fourth grade. “Honestly, I would be a fool not to recognize the work that God has done in my life.” If there is a trait Polamalu carries with him on the football field or away from it, it is passion. On the field, it shows up in the frenetic way he bounces around the field, leading Hope to dub him the Tasmanian Devil. Or the way he diligently studies film. Away from football, it is evident in the way he pours himself into whatever interests him at the moment. In high school, near his hometown of Tenmile, Ore., (pop. 701), it was wood-carving, which he learned at the knee of his wood shop teacher. Polamalu made cabinets, mirrors, end tables and coffee tables that he sold to make money. At USC, he learned to play the piano and read music, and also began to explore his Island roots, joining Polynesian dance clubs and learning the Samoan language. His more recent interests include growing orchids and learning to fly-fish, hobbies that don’t quite fit under the rubric of “when in Pittsburgh. …” Nevertheless, explain to Polamalu, apologetically, that you don’t really know much about orchids and he jumps right into a dissertation. “Orchids are one of the most amazing plants out there,” he said, later explaining that he’s always found a peace while tending to plants. “They are very delicate, very temperamental. You’ve got to take great care of them, even more than a child, for them to even think about blooming. Some are easier to grow than others, but they’re very, very beautiful flowers.” And the next thing you know, he’s explained that there’s roughly 25,000 species of orchids and the difference between epiphytes (grow on trees), lithophytes (grow on rocks) and terrestrials (grow on the ground), some of which grow only in cold weather, others that do best where it’s humid. As for fly-fishing, well, who knew that a place called Spruce Creek, out near State College a few hours to the east of Pittsburgh, was one of the best places in the country to match wits with trout? Polamalu smiles when he’s asked how many of his teammates would be interested in these pursuits, noting that he prefers reggae to rap and probably feels more at home with the veterans who have families. But it doesn’t seem to be an issue – with him or them. “Troy doesn’t like to party, he doesn’t like to hang out with the fellas, but that doesn’t make him a black (sheep) or a loner,” Hope said. “He’s different, but that’s who he is.” And it’s also why he met his wife, the younger sister of former USC teammate Alex Holmes. “I know the life of college and pro athletes going out and stuff and there would never, ever be the possibility of any guy even talking to my sister,” said Holmes, a tight end with the Dolphins. “But when Troy asked me if he could go out with her, I couldn’t have been happier. He’s such an exceptional person.” If nothing, Polamalu undertakes is without purpose or is accomplished without patience, then it stands to reason the same could be said about his most distinguishing feature – his hair. He hasn’t cut his black, wavy locks, which hang down over the back of his shoulder pads, since he was a sophomore at USC. Actually, the idea started out as a lark. “In college, you don’t care about these things,” Polamalu said. “Then all of a sudden, it started to become my fifth appendage. I’m too scared to cut it off now.” Most of the time, Polamalu keeps it under wraps. In practice it’s tucked under his helmet. Afterward, he dresses at his locker with it wrapped up in a towel and leaves with it tied in a bun. As a rookie, he planned to keep his hair under his helmet until he had earned a starting role. “Then we go to San Francisco on a Monday night game and Ronnie Lott was there, I think getting his number retired, and I was back in California, the air was great, the energy was there – I finally just let it out,” he said. “Some people say it’s a Samson thing, but I don’t think so. I didn’t take a Nazarene vow or anything. It’s just hair. The best explanation is that throughout history, every great warrior – the Greeks, the Samurais, the American Indians, the Mongolians, you name it – had long hair and would dress it before battle. I don’t know why today is so different. In the military, you’ve got to have short hair. “If there’s significance, it’s that you let everything loose on game day.” Game day is the one day of the week that Polamalu isn’t so soft-spoken or thoughtful, the one day on which he can play the role of the frenetic warrior. It’s the one day when he is more likely to hand someone his lunch, rather than pay for it. Billy Witz, (818) 713-3621 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! PITTSBURGH – Somewhere from the hidden corners of restaurants, Troy Polamalu and his wife, Theodora, are watching. They’re not looking for anyone in particular – perhaps an older couple who look like they’ve been married a long time or a family they can see is enjoying a meal in each other’s company. Just somebody who touches them. center_img Then, quietly, they ask their server for that table’s bill and cover it. “We like to spot a couple, just see somebody that makes us think, ‘Man, they’re having such a beautiful time,’ ” Polamalu said. ” ‘Let’s make this even more beautiful for them and share this blessing that we’ve received.’ ” last_img read more