The Mornin' Mail is published every weekday except major holidays
Tuesday, September 23, 2003 Volume XII, Number 68

did ya know?

Did Ya Know?. . .The Community Blood Center of the Ozarks has issued a Code Yellow Alert for all blood types. A blood drive will be held at the McCune-Brooks Hospital, 627 W. Centennial, Carthage, from 1-4 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 25th.

Did Ya Know?. . .The Carthage Veterans Alliance will meet at the V.F.W., Thurs., Sept. 25th at 7 p.m. in order to plan the Annual Veterans Day Service to be held on Nov. 11th, 2003. All Veteran Organizations are invited to this meeting.

Did Ya Know?. . .The Diabetes Support Group will meet from 4-5 p.m. on Wed., Sept. 24th in the dining room of the McCune-Brooks hospital. Speaker will be Tammy Soriano, OD.

Did Ya Know?. . . "Team Up & Read Up," with the St. Louis Rams for a Fall Reading Program for readers 6-years-old and up. Program runs from Sept. 15th through Oct. 31st. Call 237-7040 or come by the Carthage Public Library YPL desk for more information.

today's laugh

Excuse — I was lost in thought.
Yes, it’s always easy to get lost where one is a stranger.

Are you taking the medicine regularly?
I tasted it and decided that I’d rather have the cough.

A Chronological Record of Events as they have Transpired in the City and County since our last Issue.


Lawrence Milton, the league ball player whose home is here, arrived in the city yesterday from Omaha, where he has been playing remarkable ball for the past two months. He will visit his parents here for a week.

Milton has secured his release from Omaha after a month’s trying. He did not like his company and sought to have his contract made void but his manager refused. He at last found satisfaction by dealing personally with president Sexton of the Western League. Through him he was released from the contract is once more at liberty to go where he pleases.

Ever since Milton left St. Louis he has had a number of flattering offers to pitch for the big league teams and now he can look with favor upon some of them. Milwaukee is very anxious to sign the big twirler and he may go there but still has his eye upon some other prominent teams.

  Today's Feature

Nixon Sues "Nonprofit" AmeriDebt.

Jefferson City, Mo. — A nationally advertised company that claims to be a nonprofit credit-counseling service is defrauding debt-ridden Missourians, Attorney General Jay Nixon charges in a lawsuit filed this month. Nixon says AmeriDebt Inc. deceives consumers through excessive, hidden fees and by secretly transferring consumers’ accounts and money to its affiliated for-profit companies.

Nixon filed suit in St. Louis City Circuit Court against several companies and individuals associated with AmeriDebt, including members of the Pukke (PUCK-ee) family, which owns and operates the various companies named in the lawsuit. The lawsuit claims the supposedly nonprofit companies have taken in millions of dollars in personal profits for the Pukke family and other officers and directors from consumers needing help with unsecured debt and have violated Missouri consumer protection laws.

"Consumers in financial dire straits often will reach out to those offering credit counseling services to keep them afloat, particularly if the services are aggressively advertised on television or on the Web as being nonprofit," Nixon says. "Unfortunately, with its high, hidden fees and lack of any significant credit counseling, AmeriDebt has served more as an anchor than a life preserver for many consumers."

In addition to AmeriDebt, the defendants in the lawsuit include Debticated Inc., which also claims to be nonprofit; for-profit corporations Debtworks Inc., Ballenger Group Inc., Ballenger Group Holdings Inc., and Infinity Resources Inc. (later renamed F&M Mortgage Inc. and then Fidelity and Trust Mortgage Inc., also defendants); and owners Andris Pukke and his brother, Eriks Pukke. The Pukkes and their companies are based in Germantown, Md.

Nixon says that while AmeriDebt tells consumers it is a nonprofit organization that operates at cost and does not make money, the company functions like a profit-driven company. Employees referred to as "credit counselors" or "debt professionals" actually perform more as salespeople to sell fee-based debt management plans to consumers and are compensated in part on commission, Nixon says.

"AmeriDebt aggressively advertises that it charges no upfront fee to consumers," Nixon says. "What the company downplays or hides is that the first monthly payment a consumer makes — which typically is three percent of the consumer’s total debt, and averages $327 — does not go to the creditors, but is instead pocketed by AmeriDebt and the Pukkes’ for-profit companies." This payment is termed a "voluntary contribution" by AmeriDebt, Nixon says, and results in the consumer going further into debt since the creditors are not paid with it. In addition, AmeriDebt charges consumers fees of up to $70 per month over the life of the consumer’s debt management plan; the plans generally last between three and five years. Most of those monthly fees also are secretly transferred to the Pukkes’ for-profit companies.

"Those monthly fees, which also are characterized by AmeriDebt as ‘voluntary,’ add on between $1,000 and $2,000 to how much consumers pay," Nixon says. "This is not the kind of help people in debt need."

The lawsuit also says that AmeriDebt falsely advertises that it provides credit counseling. Nixon says the employees with whom consumers consult on the phone are salespeople, not trained credit counselors, and they provide no significant help with budgeting or education and training about personal or household finance.

"True credit counseling would help consumers work their way out of debt and stay there," Nixon says. "AmeriDebt has salespeople competing for commission and bonuses by selling debt management plans. They are not trained or qualified to know what course of action is going to be best for the individual consumer with whom they are speaking."

Nixon also says the statements AmeriDebt makes that it will "negotiate" with a consumer’s creditors to obtain the best terms and lowest interest rate are false as well. The creditors dictate to AmeriDebt, in advance of the consumer contact, what interest rates and terms will be given to consumers who go on a debt management plan.

The lawsuit notes that in September 1996, defendant Andris Pukke pleaded guilty to the federal felony of trying to defraud consumers by falsely promising "debt consolidation loans," then not providing them. Pukke and his wife formed AmeriDebt Inc. the same month he pleaded guilty to the federal charge. The defendants do not disclose the conviction information to consumers, yet Pukke companies still entice Missouri consumers by promising debt consolidation loans, Nixon says.

The lawsuit asks the court to void any contract made between Missouri consumers and the defendants, and order consumer restitution of the money not forwarded to creditors. Nixon also is asking that the defendants pay civil penalties of up to $1,000 for each violation of Missouri consumer protection laws, as well as pay all investigative, attorney and court costs to the state.

Just Jake Talkin'


Ya gotta wonder ‘bout those folks who invented the things we take for granted ever’day. Things like the paper clip, pencil, and most important, the eraser. I wonder if the guy who invented the "Phillips" screw head figured on seein’ it become so common.

A lotta things grew outa rustic tools of some sort I suppose. Things like the rake or hoe. Over the years they were just improvements of what they had always known. The things I’m talkin’ about grew out of necessity that prob’ly wasn’t so obvious to most.

There was no need for a "coaster" until folks had furniture that was worth protectin’. I really like that little rubber ball that swings out to keep the screen door from slammin’ and wakin’ me up. Now That’s real genius.

This is some fact, but mostly,

Just Jake Talkin’.



McCune Brook Hospital

Weekly Column


By Paul G. Donohue, M.D.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Please clarify the conflicting advice on how much a person has to exercise for health. I am pretty busy, but I could get in 30 minutes of exercise a day without trouble. Now I read that it takes 60 minutes of exercise. Anything less wastes your time. Can you straighten this out for me? — C.K.

ANSWER: Information on what constitutes enough exercise time is confusing and often conflicting. The American College of Sports Medicine and the Surgeon General suggest that people engage in 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise on most, if not all, days of the week. "Moderate intensity" is defined as exercise that permits people to carry on a conversation with a little bit of effort. Moderate-intensity exercise doesn’t wind people and leave them gasping for air, but it does present somewhat of a challenge to talk.

The latest exercise prescription comes from the National Academy of Sciences. This is the source that advises an hour of daily exercise. A closer reading of what was written gives plenty of leeway in obtaining the hour of exercise. Half of the hour should be exercise of moderate intensity as defined above. The other half-hour is designated as leisure activity — exercise done at a reduced clip. All daily activity counts: climbing stairs, housecleaning and gardening, for instance. The hour of exercise is primarily directed at people who are exercising to lose weight and to keep it off.

Copyright 1997-2003 by Heritage Publishing. All rights reserved.