Innovation Village Initiative to help revitalize West Baltimore

— A new initiative is helping to change the conversation in an area of Baltimore where hopelessness has often led to the anger, which recently spilled over into chaos after the death of Freddie Gray.

Innovation Village, a community partnership aimed at leveraging technology to help fuel a wave of job creation and business startups to support retail and new housing developments was launched in Central West Baltimore.

The official kick-off was held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day outside of the Penn North Metro Station, the site of massive protests and where a CVS Pharmacy burned in the aftermath of Gray’s death.

Richard May, the chairman of Innovation Village, said the goal is to create an economic base that works together with colleges like Coppin State and the Maryland Institute College of Art and also other cultural institutions and neighborhood associations.

“It’s going to include others and we are going to drive economic growth,” he said.

“Over the next three months we will develop an action plan for financial incentives to market the area to employers and residents.

“There are already a couple of startup technology firms who have committed to opening here and the response has been great, we’ve received tremendous interest from existing residents, entrepreneurs and firms that are looking to move into innovation village,” May said.

Innovation Village began because of the desperate need for jobs and stability in West Baltimore. May and others then studied economic growth in other cities to help determine solutions.

Cities like Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Detroit have zones similar to Innovation Village, according to May, who also co-founded the Mount Royal Community Development Corp., which serves as a partner in the new initiative.

While the focus will be on growing start-ups, May says potential tech jobs would also lead to solid employment for real estate agents, coffeehouse workers and retail workers.

“For me, this is very personal, being an African-American and my family living in the area,” May said. “A lot of the challenges and problems we see have been the result of decades of disinvestment, so knowing what jobs mean in our community, this has been very personal for me to help deliver a solution.”

May was joined by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake; City Comptroller Joan Pratt; City Council President Bernard Young; and others at the official launch. Even Governor Hogan reportedly has endorsed the initiative.

“Frankly, our timing couldn’t be better as Governor Larry Hogan and the mayor have pledged to target funding for demolition and development in areas like Central West Baltimore,” said Steva A. Komeh Nkrumah, a long-time West Baltimore resident and president of the Historic Marble Hill Community Association. “For years we’ve been planning, but there were no resources to implement. Now, with nearly a billion dollars coming to Baltimore in the next four years, surely this area can’t be overlooked. In fact, I guess we represent a sort of Ground Zero, so rebuild should start here.”

Disney on Ice ‘Treasure Trove’ set to arrive in Baltimore

— The ultimate Disney animation celebration will be held at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, February 3-7, 2016. Produced by Feld Entertainment, Disney On Ice presents “Treasure Trove”is Disney’s 50th animated feature and Disney lovers will see Peter Pan; Tinker Bell; Captain Hook; Simba; Alice and the Mad Hatter; and a host of other characters and princesses come to life in the production.

In “Treasure Trove,” Hope Alexander portrays Princess Tiana from “The Princess and the Frog.” The 26-year-old who was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware will perform in Baltimore for the second time.

“I just think the show has something everyone can enjoy,” Alexander said, noting that besides her part in Treasure Trove, another eye-catching number is the performance of Under the Sea with Ariel and Sebastian from The Little Mermaid.

Getting accustomed to moving from city to city and country to country every week or so was once Alexander’s toughest challenge during her performance career. However, she has grown accustomed to her ever-changing life of packing and unpacking while performing in exciting places.

She says she has made lifelong friendships while working for Feld Entertainment and seeing the smiles of Disney lovers and observing the excitement when they see their favorite character coming to life, has made the journey to destinations like Japan, China, the Philippines, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand all worth it.

While performing in Baltimore, Alexander’s additional bonus is getting to see family and friends. She explained that because she is usually on the road six to eight months at a time, she really enjoys performing close to home. Her family and friends are able to come to the shows to see her perform. They are always very supportive and very loud in the stands.

Alexander started to skate at the age of two, when her mother, Cherise Alexander would take her around the ice rink. Early morning lessons became a part of her routine as she grew older.

Between age seven and 16, Alexander skated competed on ice. A knee injury interrupted her competitive skating but a track scholarship led her to Miami University. After graduating with a B.A. in International Studies, and a B.A. in French in 2011, she revisited her passion ice-skating, which had always been a major part of her life. She joined a few smaller skating shows before joining Feld Entertainment in 2012.

“I still wanted to be involved in skating, and that’s when I auditioned for shows and picked it back up again, and here I am today,” Hope said. “It’s my fourth year with Treasure Trove.”

Her father, Romain Alexander, was also supportive of Hope’s desire to skate. Both of her parents were athletes growing up and in college. She shares her role models’ athletic genes.

“My mom ran track, and my dad played football in college and professionally,” Hope said. “Just watching how hard they’ve worked and how they’ve persevered, and just to see where they came from and where they are today is really inspiring.”

Hope wants to serve as inspiration for a little boy or girl who spots her happily skating on the ice. Perhaps he or she may also want to pursue a rewarding career in skating or even something considered less common.

“I just say keep at it because you never know where it will take you,” Hope said. “I stuck with skating for all of these years, and now I’ve been throughout the U.S. and all over the world, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. So just keep at it and don’t give up!”

For more information, performance times, or to purchase tickets, call: 1-800-745-3000 or visit:

Maggie Paylor celebrates 100th birthday

— On February 1, 1916, Maggie Paylor was born just outside of Roxboro, North Carolina. The daughter of a sharecropper, Joseph and his wife Josephine, Maggie was one of nine children. On February 1, 2016, the longtime Waverly resident will celebrate her 100th birthday.

Family members and friends of Paylor, whom they affectionately call “Miss Mag” or “Aunt Mag,” will celebrate the historic occasion on Saturday, January 30, 2016. They are throwing a special birthday party in her honor. Family members are traveling to Baltimore from North Carolina, New Jersey, Washington, D.C. and other areas for the special day.

“I feel fine,” said the soon-to-become centenarian with a smile. “I’m excited about my birthday party.”

Mary Russell is Paylor’s niece and caregiver.

“She is doing well,” said Russell. “Aunt Mag still goes up and down the steps, eats by herself, and dresses herself. She is very independent. She really loves to sit and look out the window. In the summer, she really loves sitting on the front porch.”

According to Russell, Paylor was the seventh of nine children and came to Baltimore when she was in her early 20s. During that time, the former Maggie Russell, would meet and eventually marry her husband Henry Paylor, who served in the United States Army during World War II. The couple never had children, but Paylor was like a mother to many, taking family members in during times of need, and helping others whenever possible.

Russell noted that when Paylor’s brother became ill, she left Baltimore and headed back to North Carolina to take care of him. According to Russell, the devoted sister was well into her 70s at the time. While there, she joined Warren’s Chapel Baptist Church, where Russell says she is still a tithing member.

“Aunt Mag took care of her brother until he died,” recalled Russell. “Then she moved back to Baltimore. She is the only surviving sibling of the nine children.”

Paylor’s face may be a familiar one to those who shopped or worked at Stewart’s in downtown Baltimore many years ago. According to Russell, Paylor worked for the department store for years until her retirement.

Russell, who helped spearhead a 90th birthday party for Paylor 10 years ago, talked about her longevity.

“Aunt Mag has a strong spiritual foundation,” said Russell. “She also never allowed things to stress her out. She also loves her family. She taught me the importance of family, and doing things to help other people.”

Over the years, Paylor also enjoyed puzzles, sewing, and baking.

“Aunt Mag also used to love to party,” said Russell as she looked at Paylor with a fond smile. “She also loved to make pound cakes for people’s birthdays.”

This time, it will be Paylor’s turn to receive a birthday cake. However, this one will be emblazoned with a candle with the numerals 100 to mark her momentous milestone.

Gaps in teacher effectiveness hurt young, minority students

— Minority and low-income students are less likely to have consistent access to effective teachers between preschool and the third grade than students from high-income households, according to a new report by the Center for American Progress (CAP), a Washington, D.C-based think tank.

Rachel Herzfeldt-Kamprath, a researcher at CAP and a co-author of the report said that research on brain development shows that kids are learning a lot during that time period and gaining foundational skills that they build on throughout the rest of their academic careers.

“So, having continuity across that time period is really important so that the skills are building on each other,” said Herzfeldt-Kamprath.

The report found that more than 60 percent of children in prekindergarten that come from households earning more than $100,000 have access to highly educated teachers (a bachelor’s degree or higher), while about half (52 percent) of the students in prekindergarten that come from households earning less than $20,000 have access those teachers.

“As children progress through elementary school, they are slightly more likely to have a highly educated teacher,” the report said. “This is particularly true for children from higher income families: 60 percent of the highest income second-graders have a teacher with a master’s degree compared to only 46 percent of kindergarteners in the same income group.”

However only about half of second-graders from households earning less than $50,000 have access to highly educated teachers.

This finding is particularly troubling, because studies show that African American children are more likely to be enrolled in prekindergarten or child care centers that receive food subsidies and are more likely to attend schools in poor neighborhoods than their White peers. According to the report, 70 percent of Black children are enrolled in such programs compared to 28 percent of White children.

Black children are also more likely to have teachers whose household income is below $50,000 when compared to their White and Asian peers, according to the report.

“In the early childhood field, studies have found both direct and indirect links between teachers’ pay and the quality of education provided, with comparatively better-compensated educators creating a higher-quality classroom environment,” the report said.

The report highlighted a number of priorities including increasing access to high-quality prekindergarten programs, raising teacher pay, promoting collaborative professional development and in-service training, and school-level support.

“These supports should include both infrastructure supports—such as up-to-date textbooks, technology, and developmentally appropriate classroom materials—as well as environmental supports, including teacher-planning time during the school day; adequate teacher and school-administrator compensation; and a school community that empowers teachers to be effective,” the report said. “Additionally, teachers need supportive school leaders; access to community social services to address the broader needs of children and families; and alternative approaches to classroom and school discipline.

Herzfeldt-Kamprath said that parents need to focus on seeking early learning opportunities and high quality childcare centers that offer developmentally appropriate practices as part of their curriculum.

“The main takeaway is that we know that learning starts very early for kids and building those foundational skills is hugely important and parents can play as big a role as teachers can,” said Herzfeldt-Kamprath. “Ensuring that they have access from birth is really critical piece.”

Rebecca Ullrich, who also co-authored the report, said that parents should look for schools or childcare centers that are making an effort to engage and involve families in their child’s learning.

“Preschool itself isn’t necessarily a one-off shot,” said Herzfeldt-Kamprath. “We need continuity between prekindergarten and the K-12 system to ensure that kids who get a good quality early education build on the skills that they learned rather than going from a system that takes care of their social and emotional development and their academic skills to an environment that does not necessarily provide the same support that they were receiving.”

Michelle Obama on young Barack: ‘He was a bum’

— President Barack Obama has always been candid about his youthful transgressions — a history his wife referenced Tuesday when explaining anyone can become a high achiever.

“Barack fooled around in high school,” the first lady said on the BET talk-show “The Real” during a session focused on higher education.

“He didn’t take school seriously in high school. He barely got his work done. He was a bum! And it took him a second. He had to grow up a little bit,” she said.

Michelle Obama said her husband didn’t become serious about his education until he transferred to Columbia University during his second year of college.

Later, asked about any advice she’d give parents of apprehensive parents of college-bound kids, Michelle Obama offered a similarly blunt response.

“When they get to be 17, you’ll be like ‘Bye Felicia!'” she said to laughter.

Joseph Fiennes to play Michael Jackson in British TV show

— With all the controversy over #OscarsSoWhite, now may not have been the best time to announce that a white actor has been cast as African-American pop star Michael Jackson.

According to The Guardian, Joseph Fiennes will play the late superstar in a comedy to appear on the British channel Sky Arts. The half-hour show, called “Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon,” centers around a fabled road trip in which Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando tried to get home to Los Angeles from New York after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

One of Jackson’s former employees insisted to Vanity Fair in 2011 that the trip did happen and that the trio “actually got as far as Ohio — all three of them, in a car they drove themselves!”

For some, the casting decision has been just as unbelievable as the idea that Jackson, Taylor and Brando (who supposedly insisted on frequent stops at fast food restaurants) would just hop in a car and take off cross-country.

As the debate rages on about the lack of quality roles for actors of color and thus the lack of representation at awards shows, one person tweeted, “Joseph Fiennes can play Michael Jackson. (A real person). But Idris can’t play James Bond (a fake spy for a fake agency)?”

“Grease’s” Stockard Channing has reportedly been cast as Taylor, and “Troy” star Brian Cox will appear as Brando.

It’s not just about Flint

— The best fiction has a way of using an imagined world to help us see the real one more clearly. I was reminded of that when I recently read “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.”

On the surface, Ursula Le Guin’s 1973 short story is unrelated to a topic I have been thinking a lot about in recent months, namely the lead in water crisis in Flint, Michigan. But I couldn’t help but feel that, in some ways, it describes the community of experts who enabled not only the Flint crisis, but a similar problem in Washington over a decade ago. It also seems to illuminate the kind of thinking behind a daily gamble that’s taking place across the United States with the lives and futures of fetuses, infants, and young children who drink (or eat food cooked with) lead-tainted tap water.

Omelas is a “happy” town in celebration of the “victory of life,” but with one secret. In a small broom closet it keeps locked up a child that is “nearly 10,” though “looks about 6.” The child is described as “feeble-minded” — perhaps from birth or through years of isolation and neglect. Omelas’ citizens know about the child, and some even go stare at it, but they are caught up in a disturbing belief that its release would bring immediate destruction to the beauty and prosperity of their town.

I have worked on the problem of lead in drinking water for nine years, and I am haunted by what I see as a present-day Omelas in our midst, involving agencies whose responsibility it is to promote the public good: water utilities, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

These bodies pride themselves on delivering clean water, protecting our environment, and safeguarding our health. But the awkward truth is that through a weak federal regulation, a pernicious cycle of misinformation, and systematic disregard of public demands for change, they leave millions of U.S. citizens vulnerable to chronic and acute exposures to lead in drinking water.

Recent scientific studies have associated such exposures to miscarriages and fetal deaths as well as to elevated levels of lead in blood in young children. The severity and irreversibility of the harm involved suggests large-scale failure by a community of otherwise well-meaning professionals that seems to be caught up in the misplaced belief that improved protection from lead in water is either unnecessary or would somehow involve greater costs than what we are now paying.

So what is the regulation that has helped fuel this crisis? The federal Lead and Copper Rule (LCR), born from a cozy relationship between the EPA and water utilities, leaves consumers partly responsible for protecting themselves from lead at the tap. The trouble is that the rule neglects to provide an effective mechanism that lets us know about this responsibility.

Of course, there is no safe level of lead in water. However, the LCR deems utilities compliant when more than 90% of a small number of sampled homes release lead equal to or below 15 parts per billion (ppb). This means that when our drinking water is hailed for “meeting or exceeding” federal standards, and we take comfort in that news, every home in our community could in theory be dispensing up to 15 ppb lead — and 10% of homes could be dispensing lead in the hundreds and even thousands of ppb.

If that weren’t bad enough, investigations in 2004 and this year suggested that water utilities game the LCR, which can artificially earn them regulatory compliance and prolong public exposure to severe contamination. This happened in Washington, Durham, and Flint.

Unfortunately, according to a 2006 EPA review, even when widespread problems are confirmed, and the LCR’s remediation requirements are triggered, the majority of utilities failed to provide mandatory public education. We are witnessing a case like this today in Sebring, OH, where the water system was found to have been too slow to notify its customers of lead in their water.

What is EPA doing about this?

So far, the EPA has failed to heed public calls for urgent fixes to the LCR, and affected communities were not included in the LCR-revisions deliberations working group that it convened in 2014. Perhaps not surprisingly, the working group did not propose a ban to well-known gaming practices. I was the only dissenter to the report the group released. And the CDC? It designates lead paint and dust as the primary sources of lead, and has systematically downplayed the risk of lead in water.

Perhaps informed by this mindset, Holland, Michigan — which reportedly faces a significant problem with elevated blood lead levels in children — recently made the surprising announcement that its takeaway lesson from Flint’s water crisis was the need to address lead paint. “Unlike Flint, Holland does not have any issue with lead in the water,” a city representative said. Forget that the city’s water utility has gamed the LCR.

So the Omelas I see weighs heavily on me. But we cannot walk away from it, like some did in Le Guin’s story, and we cannot turn a blind eye. Instead we should demand honest public messaging, and continue to fight for a rule on lead that will protect us all.

Yanna Lambrinidou is adjunct assistant professor of Science and Technology Studies at Virginia Tech. The views expressed are her own.


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Blizzard cleanup keeps parts of Northeast shut down

— Dave Schneider shook his head as he surveyed the scene around him.

Inside a stadium parking lot, there were mountains of snow piled high as far as the eye could see.

“It’s a horror show,” the dump truck driver said. “It’s just, there’s no way to keep up with it right now.”

Days after a blizzard clobbered the East Coast, officials across the region were still dealing with a difficult problem: where to put all the snow.

In Washington, truckloads of snow came rumbling into the parking lot of RFK Stadium, where city officials said they planned to bring a machine that can melt 60 tons of snow an hour.

Authorities there and in New York, where a travel ban was lifted Sunday, asked people to remain off the roads whenever possible to give crews space to clear side streets and other locations still packed with snow.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a travel advisory, warning that black ice could cause dangerously slick driving conditions as temperatures drop at night.

Virginia State Police sent out a similar message, noting the agency had responded to more than 1,500 traffic crashes since Friday.

Death toll climbs

The blizzard began pummeling the region on Friday. It blanketed cities with massive amounts of snow, caused devastating flooding and snarled traffic.

At least 37 people died as a result of the storm: 10 in New York, six in North Carolina, six in Virginia, four in South Carolina, three in Pennsylvania, three in New Jersey and one each in Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Delaware and Washington.

Official tallies of deaths during the storm were higher, but CNN has not been able to confirm individual reports, and it was unclear if all of the reported fatalities were weather-related.

Many of the deaths were the result of snow shoveling.

Authorities warned residents about trying to shovel out, saying the stress of such exertion could bring on heart attacks.

“Some of our guys out there, they want to be Superman,” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said. “But they don’t have to be. They can be Superman 30 minutes at a time.”

In Pennsylvania, a 56-year-old man died of carbon monoxide poisoning after a snowplow buried his car, an 80-year-old man died while shoveling snow and a pregnant 18-year-old died after collapsing while shoveling snow, officials said.

In Passaic, New Jersey, a mother and son died inside a car, trying to stay warm while the father shoveled snow outside, police said. The car’s exhaust pipe was blocked with snow, police said, causing carbon monoxide to enter the vehicle. A daughter who was also in the car was in critical condition.

In Mahwah, New Jersey, police said a group of students who got off a school bus Monday afternoon discovered the body of a neighbor almost covered by snow. The 64-year-old woman was found with a snow shovel, and investigators believe she suffered a medical emergency and collapsed during the blizzard.

For some, ‘a good time’

The calendar may have said Monday, but for lots of people along the East Coast, it was another snow day instead.

Among those taking the day off while street crews, plow drivers and enterprising teens clean up the mess left behind by the weekend blizzard: federal workers in the nation’s capital, state employees in Maryland and Virginia, plenty of private-sector employees, and schoolchildren all over the region.

“People are out having snowball fights, having a good time,” Rawlings-Blake said.

But it wasn’t all fun and games, of course.

Transit workers in New York struggled to get the Long Island Rail Road back into operation, restoring service for about 80% of riders by Monday morning, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told CNN.

De Blasio said the blizzard will almost certainly rank among his city’s “top five snowstorms” in recorded history in terms of snow accumulation.

“Things are not entirely normal today, but a lot of the city is operating well,” de Blasio said Monday, thanking city employees for their hard work.

In Washington, where recovery didn’t seem quite as far along, Mayor Muriel Bowser warned residents of “several days of cleanup ahead of us.”

“Know that we’re going to be dealing with snow all of this week,” she said.

Still, she said, the city was bouncing back. Schools are set to reopen Wednesday, she said, and city offices will reopen Tuesday.

Federal government offices in the area remain closed.

All but one of the city’s Metrorail lines will be open for service on Tuesday, officials said, and Washington’s airports were slowly returning to life with limited flight schedules.

Airlines canceled more than 1,800 flights Monday, less than half Sunday’s total, but enough to cause plenty of headaches.

One passenger at Reagan National Airport in Washington was hoping to get home Monday after eight cancellations. Others remained stuck in limbo.

CNN’s Brian Todd reported from Washington. CNN’s Catherine E. Shoichet and Michael Pearson wrote the story in Atlanta. CNN’s Emily Smith, Joseph Netto, Sheena Jones, Dave Hennen, Sean Morris, Dave Alsup, Lindy Royce, Pilar Melendez, Rob Frehse and Nick Valencia contributed to this report.

Ten Senior Bowl players that could be Ravens targets

The Senior Bowl is the event that some feel kicks off draft season. The Baltimore Ravens are one team that really puts time into looking at prospects during the week of practices leading up to the game. Unlike most teams, the Ravens had two of their top personnel people at the East West Shrine game practices last week. General Manager Ozzie Newsome along with Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta will surely be in Mobile, Alabama to watch some of the best senior prospects in the nation.

The Ravens used four draft picks in the 2015 NFL Draft to select players that they saw in Mobile. Those players include: tight end Nick Boyle, defensive tackle Carl Davis, offensive lineman Robert “Snacks” Myers and outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith. Here are ten prospects to keep an eye on at the senior bowl this year:


Alexander has played both tackle and guard at LSU. His best position in the NFL would probably be guard. Alexander has natural size and strength. He moves much better than his 6-6 frame would suggest.


Canady has the size that NFL personnel folks will get excited about. He has legitimate speed to go along with his size. Canady also returned punts at Virginia. He played in the box at times and showed the desire to mix it up against the run. Canady can cover slot receivers as well.


Jenkins is a powerful linebacker can set the edge. He is not the sexy, fast twitch edge rusher that fires off of the ball to generate pressure. Jenkins uses a bull rush to drive offensive lineman back to the quarterback and collapse the pocket.

CYRUS JONES CB ALABAMA 5-10 196 pounds

Jones is a very sound corner that has elite ball skills. The Baltimore product has a nose for the football and has been one of the best defensive backs at Alabama throughout his career. Jones does not possess the height that many teams want, but he is simply a dog on the field that makes plays. He also has the ability to help out as a returner.


Ragland is the classic downhill thumper at linebacker. He will attempt to show that he can rush the passer this week by lining up at outside linebacker this week in addition to middle linebacker. The SEC Defensive Player of the Year packs a big time punch when he delivers hits on the ball carrier. He is one of the best open field tacklers in the nation.


Matakavich is a pure football player. He has a nose for the football and is consistently in on tackles. He has amassed over 400 tackles throughout his career. Matakevich won the Chuck Bednarik Award which is given to the country’s most outstanding defensive player. He diagnoses running plays quickly and finds a way to fight off blockers.


Shepard is one of the most polished wide receivers in the nation. He is fundamentally sound when it comes to the nuances of the position such as route running and always using proper hand placement to catch the football. Shepard can be a threat in the short yardage passing game by catching passes across the middle and taking them a long way. He can also play on the outside and rarely gets jammed at the line of scrimmage.


Spence is an electric pass rusher coming off of the edge. He uses a variety of moves and stays low to the ground when he rushes the passer. He will win the leverage battle often and dips his shoulder as he turns the corner.


Whitehair has solid size for an interior lineman. He played both guard and tackle at Kansas State. If duty calls, Whitehair can play any position along the offensive line including center. He prefers to play guard in the NFL.

TAVON YOUNG CB TEMPLE 5-10 181 pounds

Young is scrappy corner that jumped onto the scene after a solid game against Notre Dame Receiver, Will Fuller. He times his jumps perfectly and attacks the ball when it is in the air like as if it was thrown to him. Young can plaster himself to receivers and gets a body on them throughout their routes.

The changing retirement landscape: What to know now

— Previous generations of Americans were able to retire with confidence, knowing that they could count on a steady stream of income from what is often referred to as the “three-legged stool” of company pensions, social security and personal savings.

Today, for most workers, the retirement landscape is different: the availability of traditional pensions has plummeted, wage stagnation has dampened how much middle-income savers can set aside, and the level at which Social Security can play a substantial source of future retirement income is in flux.

And now experts are warning that many insurance products that replicate the “paycheck for life” provided by traditional pensions are becoming at risk in this new world. Especially threatened, say retirement specialists, are annuities, which have traditionally offered guaranteed lifetime income no matter what happens in the markets.

“For millions of Americans with moderate incomes, such guarantees are increasingly necessary to help them prepare for a financially stable retirement that could span several decades,” says Helene Rayder, Vice President at Lincoln Financial Group.

However, some retirement insurance experts are concerned that new regulations proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) intended to improve customer value by eliminating conflicts of interest between advisors and their clients, could hurt consumers instead. Rayder says the rules could potentially:

• Make it economically unviable for commission-based financial advisors to serve average consumers, forcing individuals to work with more costly pay-based advisors. This will limit the financial advice many middle class savers rely on today.

• Reduce the choice of retirement products savers have in planning, potentially eliminating middle class savers from choosing commission-based accounts.

• Deter financial planners from offering annuities, and as a result savers will pay more and get less over the long term.

• Could cost families billions more instead of helping them save. A recent report published by Economists Incorporated says the cost could be as much as $80 billion nationwide.

To learn more, visit Lincoln Financial Group’s page, which provides information about the rule.

“While well-intended, the rule’s one-size-fits-all approach will negatively impact middle class savers,” says Rayder. “Americans can get involved by encouraging the DOL to change its rule, and ask their congressional representatives to make the same request of the Administration.”