Georgia Says

Augusta Chronicle on control of the Internet

The Internet is uniquely American.

It was invented here. It is largely controlled here, and it reflects our ideals of freedom and free speech.

What would the Internet look like if it were controlled by China? Or Russia? Or the United Nations?

The prospect is unnerving to say the least, but such a scenario is possible under an Obama administration plan to cede authority of the Web's core architecture to a yet-to-be-determined global organization.

As one expert pointed out, not since Pres. Carter's 1977 giveaway of the Panama Canal - another U.S.-envisioned, U.S.-financed, world-changing project - has such an important American asset been cast aside for nothing.

The Obama administration has said it would turn over the powerful Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, known as ICANN, to a "global multistakeholder community" once its contract with the U.S. Department of Commerce expires in 2015.

The nonprofit ICANN manages the systems that enable all Internet-connected devices to find each other, including the "domain name" system that creates web addresses with such familiar endings as .com, .gov, or .org.

Unlike a purely technical venture that can be overseen by engineers, ICANN is a quasi-political entity - a type of online planning and zoning board - with a major say in who gets digital real estate and what they are allowed to do with it.

ICANN in American control gives the U.S. leverage in debates over how the Internet operates, and provides us with a trump card to fend off any international attacks on Internet freedom.

The process has worked well since 1998. If it's not broken, why is Obama trying to "fix" it?

Savannah Morning News on payday loans

It's now official. The payday loan business is a giant sinkhole for people's wallets.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal watchdog group, reported last week that about half of all payday loans are made to people who extend the loans so many times they end up paying more in fees than the original amount they borrowed.

The report showed that four of five payday loans are extended, or "rolled over," within 14 days. Additional fees are charged when loans are rolled over.

"We are concerned that too many borrowers slide into the debt traps that payday loans can become," CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a statement.

No kidding. Worse, it's a trap that's difficult to escape.

Payday loans, also known as cash advances or check loans, are short-term loans at high interest rates, usually for $500 or less. They often are made to borrowers with weak credit or low incomes, and the storefront businesses often are located near military bases. The equivalent annual interest rates run to three digits.

The loans work this way: You need money today, but payday is a week or two away. You write a check dated for your payday and give it to the lender. You get your money, minus the interest fee. In two weeks, the lender cashes your check or charges you more interest to extend, or "roll over," the loan for another two weeks.

Payday loans are generally illegal in Georgia, according to the Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs.

What's especially shocking in the CFPB report were some of the numbers.

The bureau based its report on data from about 12 million payday loans in 30 states in 2011 and 2012. It found that only 15 percent of borrowers repay all their payday debts on time without re-borrowing within 14 days, and 64 percent renew at least one loan one or more times.

Meanwhile, 22 percent of payday loans are extended by borrowers six times or more; 15 percent are extended at least 10 times.

The industry argues that payday loans provide a useful service to help people manage unexpected and temporary financial difficulties.

Maybe that's how it works 15 percent of the time. But for the remaining 85 percent, it looks like this industry is grabbing someone's billfold and not letting go.



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