Abacus Federal Savings in Chinatown, New York : SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL



The story behind the only bank prosecuted after the 2008 financial crisis


After the 2008 financial crisis took millions of investment dollars from Americans, shell shocked financial advisers and briefly turned the country upside down, only one bank was indicted: Abacus Federal Savings in Chinatown, New York — the 2,531st largest bank in the U.S.

Founded by Chinese-American immigrant Thomas Sung in the 1980s, the bank has six branches in three states and primarily serves the Chinese community. Federal prosecutors indicted it in 2009 for mortgage fraud, securities fraud, and conspiracy after it reported to regulators it had discovered a loan officer was laundering money there.

Rather than plead guilty, the Sungs went to court. A new documentary from Oscar-nominated “Hoop Dreams” director Steve James follows the subsequent legal battle, which plays out in the film as a David and Goliath tale of a small bank taking the fall for the financial crisis over an isolated incident with a corrupt loan officer.

“Too big to fail turns into small enough to jail, and Abacus is small enough to jail,” journalist Matt Taibbi says in the film, calling the bank “as easy a target as you could possibly pick.”

With an intimate view of the fight for innocence from a stoic Thomas Sung, his razor sharp daughters (all lawyers), and his fiery wife, it’s clear the film has a sympathetic eye for Abacus as it goes up against the U.S. government, frequently comparing Thomas Sung to George Bailey in his wife’s favorite film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

“It seemed clear to us as filmmakers that this bank was the mirror opposite of the big banks,” director Steve James told MarketWatch in a recent interview, noting that the Sungs reported the fraud discovered at the bank themselves. “Yet they were the ones singled out, and it kind of leads one to the conclusion that this was about planting a flag and getting a trophy to be the one prosecutor, since the feds didn’t prosecute any big banks.”

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. argued that there was fraud widespread enough to warrant an investigation. In May 2012, he announced charges against the bank, two supervisors, and nine former employees — 184 counts including residential mortgage fraud, security fraud, conspiracy, and falsification of business records.

As the film expresses, the indictment put on trial not just the bank itself, but the reputation of Chinese immigrants and the cash culture of Chinatown. As Jill Sung, one of the daughters, notes at one point in the film, many of their members had never used a bank before. Now, with the movie’s premiere in New York on May 19 and the trial two years behind them, her focus has turned back on the bank.

“That is the hardest part, and what I focus on most, to ensure the bank can regain itself and be profitable,” Jill Sung told MarketWatch. “We are a community bank, a minority depository institution, which means we are mission-based to help our community. Any capital we get back we put back into the bank to help our community, so profitability to us is not just about dividends and shareholders — it’s about continuing to be able to do our mission and start being profitable again.”

The film is a celebration of the American dream — as well as a kind of eulogy for the community bank. Since the financial crisis, Jill Sung said not much has changed, though big banks continue to get bigger and community banks are consolidating. With scenes from George Bailey’s ‘Bailey Building and Loan’ woven among modern-day lines of neighbors and family outside Abacus throughout, the film shows something she says is central to their practice and is being lost: community.

“There are a lot of new banks that are creating digital communities, and I think it’s great — you can have a George Bailey of digital banks,” she said. “What’s more concerning is when you have big banks where there is no community, there’s no access, there is no feeling you can talk to anybody if you have a problem. The consumer suffers in the end because they get taken advantage of and have no other choices.”

Abacus was found “not guilty” on all 240 counts after months of deliberation and a hung jury.



Videos – Movies

  1. Abacus: Small Enough to Jail Trailer #1 (2017) | Movieclips Indie
  2. SinoVision English Channel Archives
    • Abacus: small enough to jail
      Abacus Federal Savings Bank is a family-run bank that has served New York’s Chinatown for over three decades. Its services include helping Chinese immigrants obtain loans for homes and small businesses and despite steady its growth, the bank was still only the 2651st largest bank in the country. Facing charges brought by Manhattan District attorney Cyrus Vance Jr, Abacus federal savings bank founder Thomas Sung and his four daughters decided to fight for justice. The legal battle was drawn out over five years and recorded by acclaimed filmmaker Steve James and made into the documentary.
      Published On :- 2017-May-18th
  3. Film Festival
    • Wisconsin
      • Madeline Uranek (left) and Ronnie Hess (right) from Open Doors for Refugees led a post-screening discussion of “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” a 2017 Wisconsin Film Festival selection.
  4. Director Steve James on ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL (2017) – Celluloid Dreams


Videos – Law Case

  1. Bloomberg Law
    • Abacus Bank’s Lawyer: Fannie Mae Earned $120M Profit From Us



Medical Xpress – Scientists shed light on the tight connection between mental and physical health



How do you feel right now, in general? Pleasant or unpleasant? Crummy, calm, or jittery? Somewhere in between?

Northeastern’s Lisa Feldman Barrett and her colleagues have discovered the system in the brain where those basic feelings originate.

The new findings, published last month in the journal Nature Human Behavior, could help solve mysteries regarding the tight connection between mental and physical health, including the neurological drivers behind the opioid crisis. Deciphering those mechanisms would open the door to developing more effective remedies. The findings could also revolutionize our understanding of how we make decisions, leading to more considered choices in areas ranging from the law to the economy.

“This paper really breaks down the barrier between mind and body,” says Barrett, University Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Northeastern. “It shows that the two are not separate, that the system that is important for creating and representing feelings is also important for thinking and remembering, paying attention and decision-making, and so much more. Feelings, in other words, are part of any mental event—any action, any thought, judgment, perception, or decision. They are properties of consciousness.


Two unified networks

The new brain system comprises two unified networks, each of which loops through various brain regions.

The two networks work together to keep your body’s systems—immune, cardiovascular, metabolic, and so on—in equilibrium as you respond to both internal and external “stressors,”—that is, everything from hunger and noise to transitioning from sleeping to waking or even standing to sitting. Such regulation is called “allostasis.” At the same time, these networks create the sensations inside your body—the general feeling states that thrum below the surface. That phenomenon is called “interoception.

When these feelings are very intense, these networks create emotions ranging from sadness to glee.

“This system both regulates the body and manufactures the sensations in the body that result from that regulation,” says Barrett. “But this system is not specific to allostasis and interoception.

The two networks that make up the system are at the core of the brain.” Among the wide array of psychological functions they support are social and physical fear, social affiliation, empathy, moral judgments, memory, attention, and decision-making. The networks also contain the brain cells that integrate senses external to the body, including sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste.

“These networks had been shown to be important in many , but we showed that, whatever else they are doing—helping you think, remember, pay attention or see—they are also regulating your body and creating feelings,” says Barrett. “For centuries, the mind was thought of as a battleground between emotion and rationality. Then the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio famously argued that rationality and emotion are both important for wisdom. But there is no ‘both.’ The division between rationality and irrationality is artificial; your brain isn’t wired like that at all.”


Addressing the opiate crisis

The researchers performed the research in three steps. First, they analyzed anatomy studies that trace the connections between brain regions in macaque monkeys to verify that the circuitry—the hard-wiring—of the system did in fact exist. Next, they evaluated the brain scans of nearly 700 human subjects to assess how the regions regulating the body related to one another. “We asked the question: Where is there synchrony in neural firing across the brain?” says Barrett. “That led us to these two networks that overlap each other, and that are responsible for regulating the body and generating feelings.”


Finally, they validated their results by showing another group of human subjects evocative pictures as they measured their skin conductance and asked about their level of arousal. Those with a stronger connection between the two networks—indicated by neural synchrony—also experienced more arousal when their physiological arousal in the body was higher. So people with a more tightly connected allostatic-interoceptive system were better able to bring together body regulation with feelings, allostasis with introception.


The discovery of this system may shed some light on the opiate crisis. “People are taking opiates to regulate the distressful feelings that come from a dysregulation of the body,” says Barrett. “Pain is an emotional experience—it is unpleasant feelings associated with actual or potential damage to the .


People may start taking opiates for physical pain, but these drugs work best not at diminishing the electrical signals of tissue damage—called nociception—but at reducing distress, at dampening the unpleasant that accompany nociception. We live in this soup of low-grade stress that is very bad for our bodies. Opiate drugs turn down the dial on this consistent crummy feeling.

Our findings could spur research into trying to better address the opiate and other health crises.”



Jonathan Haidt: Universities Are Digging Their Own Graves


  1. Jonathan Haidt: Universities Are Digging Their Own Graves
    Published On :-2017-April-2nd



  1. Micro-aggression
    • Wikipedia
      A microaggression is the casual degradation of any marginalized group. The term was coined by psychiatrist and Harvard University professor Chester M. Pierce in 1970 to describe insults and dismissals he regularly witnessed non-black Americans inflict on African Americans.
      Eventually, the term came to encompass the casual degradation of any socially marginalized group, such as the poor or the disabled.
      Psychologist Derald Wing Sue defines microaggressions as “brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership”.
      The concept is frequently taught by those seeking to resist racism and oppression.
      However, a number of authors, including Bradley Campbell, Heather Mac Donald, Amitai Etzioni, Jonathan Haidt, Greg Lukianoff, Jason Manning, Ralph Nader, and Christina Hoff Sommers, have argued that the concept of microaggressions may be harmful to both individuals and society.
  2. Moral Dependency
    • Victimhood Culture
    • Culture
      • Honor Culture
        • Small insults have to be addressed by you
      • Dignity Culture
        • Trade
        • Little understanding was use
        • I will not make a little thing out of a little name calling
        • Great for diversity
        • What is happening in some small universities
          • In small egalitarian universities, authorities were been brought in to address little things
          • Everyone was trying to get prestige by showing what a victim they are
          • Or by punishing people who they feel might have harmed people
        • Where did this come
          • In the 90s, kids started to be raised by active parents
          • In response to child abduction and things of the sort, parents started to be more active in parenting their children
          • Kids noticed and started using parents as problem solvers and co-opt to punish their siblings
          • Not learnt to
            • Deal with insult
        • Encourage moral dependency
        • Mob Punishment
        • Fear of saying something wrong

Naly Vang – Her husband gunned down her friends, but she escaped. Now she’s telling her story.


In a world that looks for heroes in what people say, what they sing about, and what views they hold, it is good to see that there is a special place for those who carry each other’s burden.

Steps away from how people vote, what they smoke, what they drink, and what they wear there is still this need to cover each other and say you go away, into hiding if need be, and I will see if I can reason with your spouse.


Diane & Bob Look

Bob Look, Dianne Look’s second husband who was married to her for 25 years, said his wife took a protective stance over Naly.

“It probably had a lot to do with her first marriage,” Look said. “When I met Dianne, she was living in a trailer, trying to raise two kids on food stamps and a part-time job. I’m sure she probably related (to Naly’s struggles).”


In the days after the shootings, Naly Vang walked through life as if in shock. She attended the funeral service for Dianne Look, where she was welcomed warmly by her husband, Bob Look, who had earlier made a special invitation to Naly.

“I wanted her at the funeral,” Look said. “I didn’t want her to accept responsibility for the acts done by somebody else.”

At the funeral, he hugged Naly and told her: “My wife loved you. I love you. We’ve been friends for so long. I don’t hold you responsible for any of this.”

Continue reading

Poorna Bell – Dear men, this is what the women in your life want you to know ….




  1. ‘My husband was a secret heroin addict’




I used to be married to a wonderful yet complicated man named Rob. He worked as a science journalist, we had a house and a dog, and one day we planned to have children. He also suffered from depression since he was a child, and developed a formidable opiate addiction as a means, I believe, to self-medicate that illness.

In May 2015, he took his own life, unable to see a future in which he wouldn’t still be fighting his illness, unable to reconcile what he thought he was versus what he believed a man should be.

In one of his last messages to me, he said he couldn’t live with being bankrupt, an addict, mentally ill. This speaks heartbreaking volumes of how he saw himself at the end – someone no longer valuable to society.

He had forgotten his huge intellect, his stunning ability to name any species of bird or plant he came across, his kindness, generosity, friendship. His immense capacity to love, which came without conditions or limitations.

As a man on the cusp of 40, he struggled with a lot of things other men do – being a good partner, making money, one day being a dad – but more often than not, those worries were kept hidden beneath a veneer of nonchalance, jokes and ‘everything’s fine’.

However, he would always be the best listener and advice-giver to anyone who needed help.

Men are more likely to develop addictions than women. If you are a man, the thing most likely to kill you, if you are under 45, is yourself. And yet we don’t seem to knit together all of these things to figure out why this is the case.

The idea of self-medicating your own illness to the point of death is preferable, it appears, to asking for help. Because admitting you can’t do it alone goes against the expectation we have for you as men: that you are supposed to fix everything, do everything and deal with your darkest worries in silence.

In an attempt to make sense of Rob’s death, I wrote a book called Chase The Rainbow, which is part memoir, part journalism, to give context and make sense of what is happening to our men.

As part of my research, I spoke to Alistair Campbell who campaigns for awareness around mental health, and to end stigma. He said simply that if a person was still here, then anything was possible. And if they weren’t, then nothing was possible.

What I am here to say, on behalf of all the women in your lives, is that we don’t want your silence. Your silence, quite literally, is killing you.

It shouldn’t have to take a death for anyone to realise this. It shouldn’t have to take a number as terrifying as that suicide statistic to make us really examine what we need and want from our men.

What we need from you isn’t your ability to take out the rubbish or mow the lawn. Or be stoic and silent in the face of adversity. Or even be the breadwinner.

What we want from you is to still be here. Because if you are here, then we have a chance of changing things, and if you aren’t, then all we can do is build on your legacy. It seems unthinkable that the future of boys and men are built on the bones of others, but until that number goes down, it will keep happening.

I remember asking Rob a lot, if he was okay, because he didn’t seem to be. And nine times out of ten, he insisted he was fine. The truth would only emerge when he had reached a situation of such desperate proportions, I wondered why his real emotions always only came out after paying such a high price. He lost his house, dog and eventually, me.

I don’t think I ever truly understood his shame or his loneliness, and I wish he had given me the chance. When I asked him once, why he couldn’t talk to me until it got really bad, he couldn’t articulate it. He just said: “I… can’t.”

He kept convincing himself he could fix it all and I would never have to know about the real extent of his problems.

I don’t think he ever understood what I wanted from him; what any wife, mother, daughter, sister or friend wants from any man in their lives. We don’t want perfection. We don’t expect you to have it all figured out anymore than we do. We don’t expect you to never make mistakes, or never feel sad, small, vulnerable or lonely.

The parts we tend to love most about you are not your rough edges, or your ability to keep a stiff upper lip. It is your softness, kindness; your ability to trust us with your hearts; to cry in front of us. These are not failings because they make you more than a man: they make you human.
We do you a disservice by writing you off as simple and straightforward. You grow up in the same world we do, and yet we paint you as emotionally one-dimensional. You are complex, your waters run deeper than we can imagine. If we are capable of softness and strength, then why do we imagine you aren’t?

The story I love most about my father is that he wrote poetry for my mother when he worked long shifts at A&E. The thing I loved most about Rob was his habit of placing flowers on my bedside table while I slept so I would wake up to the scent of freesias.

The women in your lives love you for a thousand reasons. I doubt any of them has anything to do with your ability to carry heavy things. We don’t expect you to only share your successes, your power, your strength. We need you to share your pain, your fears, your worries.

Because for those of us left behind, who have lost our men, there is not a day that passes when we don’t wish they were here. So we could tell them that those expectations are not realistic, that no one can hold all of their worry and concern inside, and that’s not what we want from them anyway.

What we want, above anything else, is but the sharpest of wishes: that they were still here.


Jonathan Haidt


It always humbles me to see how far ahead so many of these guys really are.




“If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against. The struggle between ‘for’ and ‘against’ is the mind’s worst disease.”
Sent-ts’an, Buddhist, around c. 700 C.E.




  1. Tim Keller & Jonathan Haidt at NYU – The Closing of the Modern Mind – Identity Politics
  2. Jonathan Haidt: The moral roots of liberals and conservatives
    March 2008