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Banks plan hard sell on overdraft fees to account holders

For many households trying to improve their finances, tossing out pitches from the bank has become almost automatic. But in recent weeks, Chase has been fanning special letters out to consumers with an offer that it urges them not to refuse.

“Your debit card may not work the same way anymore even if you just made a deposit. Unless we hear from you,” the message, emblazoned in large red type, warns. “If you don’t contact us, your everyday debit card transactions that overdraw your account will not be authorized after August 15, 2010 — even in an emergency,” with “even an emergency” underlined for emphasis.

As the government cracks down on the way banks charge fees for overspending on debit cards, the industry is mounting an aggressive campaign aimed at keeping billions of dollars in penalty income flowing to its coffers. Chase and other banks are preparing a full-court marketing blitz, which is likely to include filling mailboxes with various aggressive and persuasive letters, calling account holders directly and sending a drumbeat of e-mail to urge consumers to keep their overdraft service turned on.

Iran to build more
uranium enrichment plants

PARIS — Iran will build ten additional nuclear-fuel enrichment plants — two of them within the next year — and has identified “close to” 20 sites for such facilities, a senior Iranian official said Monday.

The official, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, also said the plants would use a new kind of centrifuge, but did not provide details.

His remarks came just days after U.N. nuclear inspectors said they had extensive evidence of “past or current undisclosed activities” by Iran’s military to develop a nuclear warhead.

Coupled with that conclusion, Iran’s latest affirmation of intent to expand its nuclear capacity seemed likely to deepen Tehran’s dispute with the United States and other world powers over its nuclear program. Earlier this month, Iran also began processing uranium to a higher level of enrichment, closer to — but still far below — weapons grade.

Iran has made similar claims about its ambitions to build more enrichment plants in the past, and it is not clear whether it has the ability to fulfill its pledges in the near future.

Tip and clues lead to arrests in Texas church fires

HOUSTON — Footprints left at the scenes of fires and an anonymous tip from a caller to a federal hot line led investigators to two young men who have been arrested in connection with fires that destroyed 10 churches in eastern Texas, according to affidavits released in court Monday.

Still, the motive for the attacks remains murky, officials said. The arsonists did not single out any particular denomination nor had they focused on black churches, as some arsonists did in the 1990s. Officials have not ruled out burglary as a motive.

Law enforcement officials, although declining to give details, said they had also found DNA evidence at the scene of at least one fire that matched one of the suspects’ genetic makeup.

The men, Jason R. Bourque, 19, and Daniel G. McAllister, 21, were arraigned in state court in Tyler at noon on Monday on charges of arson with the intent to damage a place of worship, a first-degree felony that carries a sentence of between five years and life in prison.