• DETAILS OF GOVERNMENT SWITCH TO PAPERLESS PAYMENTS: WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) - How the changes in delivering Social Security and other government benefits will work:
• Starting last year, new beneficiaries were required to electronically receive Social Security, veterans’ benefits, railroad pensions and federal disability payments.
• By March 1, 2013, nearly everyone will be required to receive their payments electronically, mainly through direct deposit into a bank account.
• Those without bank accounts will be issued a Direct Express debit card, which will receive payments and can be used for purchases at retail stores and for cash withdrawals at ATMs.
• There will be no fees for debit card purchases but there will be fees for some ATM transactions.
• Beneficiaries who are age 90 or older won’t be required to make the change. Others can apply for a hardship waiver but they will be granted only in “extreme, rare circumstances.”
• The federal government issues 73 million benefit payments a month. About 90 percent of the payments already are done electronically, so about 7 million people will have to make the switch.
• For help or for more information, call (800) 333-1795 or go to www.godirect.org
• COSBY: TRAYVON MARTIN CASE ABOUT GUNS, NOT RACE: WASHINGTON (AP) — Actor and comedian Bill Cosby says the debate over the killing of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch volunteer should be focused on guns, not race.
In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” aired Sunday, Cosby said calling George Zimmerman a racist doesn’t solve anything. Cosby says the bigger question is what Zimmerman was doing with a gun, and who taught him how to behave with it.
The shooting of the 17-year-old Martin on Feb. 26 has ignited a nationwide debate about race and self-defense.
Cosby said during the interview, which was taped Thursday afternoon, that he once owned a gun but no longer does. He says there is a need to get guns off the streets, and that people should be taught to use every possible alternative before shooting someone.
• NC DEMOCRATS’ DIRECTOR RESIGNS, DENIES HARASSMENT: RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The executive director of the North Carolina Democratic Party has resigned amid concern among party activists about high turnover at the party headquarters and harassment allegations there.
Jay Parmley, who became the top administrator last year after holding a similar post in South Carolina, resigned Sunday.
He wrote in a resignation letter that he had “never harassed any employee at any time at the (state party) or in any other job.”
State party leaders raised concerns after e-mails circulated last week that mentioned the allegations, which the party has not detailed.
State party chairman David Parker agreed that the issues involving Parmley were becoming a political distraction, particularly in an election year.
The Democratic National Convention will be held in Charlotte in less than five months.
• RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS GO INTO ROCK AND ROLL HALL: CLEVELAND (AP) — The Red Hot Chili Peppers, a free-spirited band that combined elements of punk and funk into hit songs, have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Founded in the early 1980s in Los Angeles, the Chili Peppers remain a successful touring act. While their lineup has undergone several changes, frontman Anthony Kiedis and bass player Flea have been together since forming the band as 10th graders with the late Hillel Slovak, who died of a heroin overdose in 1988.
The band was inducted at the end of Saturday night’s ceremony in Cleveland by longtime friend, comedian Chris Rock. He praised the group for offering “hard-core happiness” with a combination of rock, reggae and rap.
• OBAMA ‘HOPEFUL’ ABOUT TRANSITION IN CUBA: CARTAGENA, Colombia (AP) — President Barack Obama says he is “hopeful” about the prospect of a transition in Cuba and says there may be an opportunity in the coming years for communist-run island to start “loosening up.”
Obama says the U.S. would welcome a free Cuba. He says he is not a U.S. president who brings “a lot of baggage” to this issue and is willing to look at the problem in a fresh way.
Divisions over Cuba kept leaders at the Summit of the Americas from agreeing to a joint summit declaration. Some countries wanted to include language specifying that Cuba attend the next regional meetings, but the U.S. was opposed.
The U.S., which has a half-century long economic embargo on Cuba, says the communist-run island does not meet the summit’s democratic standards.