September 2nd, 2011

The Gang
  • acmeeoy

Waiting for the Obama administration to take action on foreclosures is futile

THE UNITED States is facing its gravest housing crisis since the Great Depression.

By at least one measure, today's crisis is worse. Housing prices have now fallen 33 percent from their peak, compared to 31 percent during the depression. Yet despite the almost unprecedented nature of the housing collapse, the Obama administration has remained stunningly passive if not utterly disinterested.

This inaction is criminal given the fact that the largest U.S. banks have used illegal means to file and carry out foreclosures. From illegal notary signatures to filing claims without proof of being the legitimate lending institution, the banks are being allowed to flout the legal process and literally steal people's homes.

This isn't just banter from critics of the Obama administration. It was the finding of an internal review conducted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). According to an investigative report by Shahien Nasiripour last May, HUD launched an undercover investigation into the whether the nation's five largest mortgage lenders--Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial--had defrauding taxpayers in their handling of foreclosures on homes with government insured loans.

The HUD investigation found that the banks had cheated the public--and in doing so, had broken the law. Specifically, the banks "filed for federal reimbursement on foreclosed homes that sold for less than the outstanding loan balance using defective and faulty documents," Nasiripour wrote.

Other probes have revealed further wrongdoing by the banks--for example, investigators found that lenders who were pursuing foreclosures improperly handled 49 percent of Federal Housing Administration loans. And in a random review of several thousand foreclosures serviced by the 14 largest mortgage firms, government officials found 50 active-duty military personnel in foreclosure, which is a violation of federal law.

The Bank of America (BoA) has been singled out for particularly nefarious behavior. BoA is the largest holder of mortgages in the U.S. and the prime perpetrator of using fake documentation to illegally foreclose on homes.

Its use of illegal documents became so widespread and obvious that the bank imposed a moratorium on its foreclosures last October. Despite this brief reprieve, BoA quickly restarted its foreclosure mill. The HUD investigation charges that even after the moratorium, BoA continued to use illegal means to foreclose on homes.

HUD turned its findings over to the Justice Department, but to date, the federal government's main law enforcement body hasn't decided to pursue charges. Not only has the Obama administration not taken this opportunity to stand up for homeowners and taxpayers by exposing the banks--it is appears to be preparing to let them completely off the hook.

The HUD investigation suggested the banks could be charged with a Civil War-era law called the False Claims Act, which was passed to stop companies from swindling government funds. The penalties for crimes committed under the False Claims Act allow the government to collect three times the actual damages.

But instead of trying to make the banks pay for their behavior, the White House has teamed up with the Treasury Department, HUD officials and bank supervisors to compel the 50 state attorney generals to negotiate a weak settlement that would end all future legal action against banks for mortgage fraud.

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Murasaki Shikibu
  • homasse

The Worst Thing About 'Deus Ex: Human Revolution'

The Worst Thing About 'Deus Ex: Human Revolution'

Based on critical reception alone, the newest Deus Ex will likely be a hit. And that's with good cause. Human Revolution is a great game, designed to support a variety of approaches and chock full of the kinds of nuts-and-bolts customizations that make a player's experience feel really unique.

But it's also a huge title and the problem with that is players probably won't see everything. In fact, it took a random tweet for me to find out about the worst thing in Deus Ex: Human Evolution. A thing named Letitia.

Letitia's a really bad part of a really good game. When lead character Adam Jensen encounters her in Detroit, she's picking through the trash. It becomes clear that she's an informant from Jensen's police days and, as their conversation continues, she gives Jensen a few hints and a general sense of the mood of the city. Letitia's horrible character design doesn't stop you from exploring the cyberpunk world of 2027. Instead, she makes you wonder about how she even came into existence.

Look, I get what Letitia's supposed to be. She's an informant in the Huggy Bear mode, the street person whose access to the underworld helps the hero get to the next part of the plot. Is she a have-not? Absolutely. Does she sound like the other have-nots in the game? Absolutely not. From 1:57 to 2:12 of the above video clip [OP note: I can't access youtube at work, so I can't put in the link. Click on the source to see it.], Letitia talks about people losing jobs and homes, going on to say that the city feels likes its going to explode. If things were different, if Letitia was at all recognizably human, you could read those chunks of text as either a reference to the infamous 1967 Detroit Riots or the current discomfort created by the global economic downturn. The potential metaphorical depth that DXHR could hold in that moment gets squandered by the character delivering it.

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Study Author To Boehner's DOMA Defense Team: You Know Nothing Of My Work

A University of Utah professor who specializes in the study of affectional bonds and same-sex sexuality is accusing House Speaker John Boehner's legal team of distorting her research.

Professor Lisa A. Diamond, whose work was cited by the legal team arguing on behalf of the U.S. House of Representatives that the Defense of Marriage Act is constitutional, filed a declaration in federal court stating that the legal team "misconstrues and distorts my research findings, which do not support the propositions for which BLAG cites them."

The legal team chosen by Boehner, headed by former Solicitor General Paul Clement, quoted Diamond as writing that there "is currently no scientific or popular consensus on the exact constellation of experiences that definitively 'qualify' an individual as lesbian, gay, or bisexual" as support for their claim that sexual orientation isn't immutable.

"That is incorrect," writes Diamond. "My quoted statement concerns the scientific and popular debates over the defining characteristics of LGBT individuals and it says nothing whatsoever about the immutability of sexual orientation itself."

Diamond also takes issue with Clement's team citing a quote from one of her articles which states that 50 percent of respondents "had changed their identity label more than once since first relinquishing their heterosexual identity."

Writes Diamond: "This quoted statement refers to sexual identity labels (i.e., how individuals describe and interpret their sexuality), and not to sexual orientation." She writes that neither that article nor her other published work support their claim that many people who experience sexual attraction to members of the same sex later cease to experience that sexual attraction.

"I am providing these clarifications of my work on a scientific basis, and I have no other interest or involvement in this case," Diamond wrote.

talking points memo

Mods can we get a defense of marriage act tag ty :3
Murasaki Shikibu
  • homasse

Extra! Extra! Schoolchildren read all about it

Extra! Extra! Schoolchildren read all about it

The following article is from a series by The Yomiuri Shimbun on efforts by schools to adapt to the government's revised school curriculum guidelines and make a fresh start after years of "yutori kyoiku"--a pressure-free educational policy that allows children more free time--which is now regarded as a key factor in poor academic performance in recent years. This is the third of six articles and focuses on a move to incorporate newspapers into the classroom. [OP: the other articles are Classes on radioactivity to return after 30 years and More public schools resuming classes on Saturdays, if anyone is interested.]

Soon after arriving at Daito Primary School in Saitama in mid-June, Hiroki Yamashita, a 12-year-old student, rushed to a "newspaper corner" set up next to the shoe boxes. Yamashita was the first to pick up the day's paper, and many other children followed him, trying to get the several other newspapers available there.

The school's sixth-graders begin their day reading newspapers, finding an interesting headline, copying the headline on a card and submitting it to their teachers.

The revised teaching guidelines for primary schools, which were implemented in April--as well as those for middle schools that will take effect next year--introduce new approaches for using newspapers as teaching materials. The revised guidelines encourage students to summarize or explain various kinds of texts, as well as make presentations on the content. Newspapers serve as good material to facilitate such activities.

A primary school textbook produced under the revised guidelines, for example, encourages children to learn the characteristics of headlines and articles, which usually have a lead paragraph that sums up the main part of the story. The textbook also encourages schoolchildren to read several newspapers for comparison.

A middle school textbook features a newspaper article on a total solar eclipse. Students are asked to examine how such an article is put together. It also includes an activity in which students attempt to make a newspaper page.

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I thought it'd be interesting to look at some of the ways that countries besides the US are tackling the problem of students not doing as well as before, and what kind of countermeasures they're trying. I'm definitely liking this idea with newspapers, and how they came up with it because they noticed kids who routinely read books and newspapers did better in areas that were in general low.

Bavaria: Fugitive German cow Yvonne gives herself up

A cow called Yvonne who made headlines in Germany has given herself up after three months on the run.

Yvonne escaped from a farm in Bavaria, just before she would have been sent for slaughter. Efforts to recapture her failed and she roamed free in forests.

But after finally turning up again on Thursday, the future is looking bright for the daring six-year-old dairy cow. She has been bought by an animal sanctuary and will live out her years alongside other members of her family. The Gut Aiderbichl sanctuary paid 700 euros (£617) to take Yvonne off the hands of her former owners - and has taken the lead in finding her.Collapse )


Mods, my lj won't let me unlock it until I've posted it.
Murasaki Shikibu
  • homasse

Masayoshi Son off on new quest to raise green profile

Masayoshi Son off on new quest to raise green profile

The March 11 calamity inspired Softbank Corp. CEO Masayoshi Son to set out on a new quest. After announcing generous corporate and private donations, including 10 billion yen ($130.6 million) out of his own pocket, Son declared his commitment to pushing Japan toward a nuclear-free future.

Since then, he has become a leading champion of renewable energy in this country. What is driving his high-profile green energy crusade? Son recently sat with Yoshibumi Wakamiya, editor-in-chief of The Asahi Shimbun, and discussed his new passion for the cause.

* * *

Yoshibumi Wakamiya: I was dumbfounded when you announced you would donate 10 billion yen out of your pocket for victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake and pledged to contribute all your executive pay until retirement. Then, you launched a high-profile campaign to promote the use of solar power. Your public image has changed considerably. Did you have an epiphany or something that changed your views about life?

Masayoshi Son: The March 11 was the most unprecedented disaster I have ever witnessed in Japan. I was really shocked by the event, which has changed my whole attitude on life. I began to ponder such questions as "What is life in the first place?" "What is business all about?" and "What should be my principal occupation in life?"

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China's village of the bachelors: no wives in sight in remote settlement

Surplus of males caused by preference for sons means poor subsistence farmers have no chance of finding a mate
Tania Branigan in Banzhushan, Hunan

He wants a wife, of course. But ask what kind of woman he seeks and Duan Biansheng looks perplexed.

"I don't have any requirements at all," said the 35-year-old farmer. "I would be satisfied with just a wife." His prospects of finding one, he added, are "almost zero". There are dozens of single men in Banzhushan village, perched high on a remote mountain peak in central Hunan province – and not one unattached woman of marriageable age.

Tens of millions of men across China face a future as bachelors. They are a source of pity, not envy, in a country where having children is central to life.

Duan worries about growing old with no one to care for him. He chafes at the unhelpful pressure to wed from his parents and neighbours. The worst thing of all is the loneliness.

This is the perverse outcome of the country's longstanding preference for sons, and its sudden modernisation. Traditionally, the family line is passed via men. When a woman marries, she joins her husband's family.

Having a boy is a cultural and a pragmatic choice: you expect him to continue your lineage and support you in old age. The result has long been a surplus of men, because of female infanticide or excess female deaths through neglect. But in the last 20 years, the problem has exploded thanks to the spread of prenatal scans. Collapse )

Source: BBC
Warm tone butterfly (by fruitpunch_it)

This again

Neil Lennon attacker receives 'not proven' verdict over sectarian charge
John Wilson found guilty of assaulting Celtic manager in 'moment of madness' but was not convicted of sectarian attack

A Hearts fan who attacked the Celtic football manager, Neil Lennon, on the touchline during a game between the two clubs has escaped conviction for a sectarian attack but has been found guilty of breach of the peace.

  • kangofu

Legalize drugs in the US to stop the violence in Mexico?

Monterrey attack: Game-changer in Mexico's drugs war?
Source - BBC News
By Julian Miglierini

Mexican President Felipe Calderon delivers his annual state of the union speech on Friday amid growing anxiety about his country's security situation, just a week after a casino attack that has prompted national soul-searching.

The attack in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey, which left 52 people dead, was branded by many as a turning point in Mexico's bloody conflict.

Beyond the mourning and initial shock, what the attack has brought about is a renewed debate on the government's security strategy to tackle a conflict that has claimed almost 40,000 lives.

The attack, some believe, could start a new phase in the conflict, a new chapter in which the options discussed could include decriminalisation of drugs or a truce with the cartels.

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Semper Fi: Always Faithful-- Documenting a Fight for Environmental Justice

"There are over 130 contaminated military sites in the United states. This makes the Department of Defense the nation's largest polluter."

These words stand as the most salient message of the documentary Semper Fi: Always Faithful, a film that encompasses the worlds of environmental justice, the military, politics and science.

The protagonist of the narrative is Ret. Master Sergeant Jerry Ensminger -- a formidable presence. When framed against the backdrop of the United States Capitol, his physical demeanor telegraphs that he is a man to be reckoned with. For Ensminger, the narrative begins with his daughter, Janey, who died at the age of 9 from a rare form of childhood leukemia. Trying to understand the reason behind her illness is the subtext of Ensminger's quest, as well as the connective tissue for the ensuing narrative about water contamination at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Ensminger's relentless search for truth is driven by the need to get answers not only for himself, but also for the nearly one million people who were unknowingly exposed to toxic chemicals at the base.

The backstory gets set in motion in 1941, when a fuel depot in operation at Camp Lejeune had leaks that were seeping into the ground -- 1,500 feet from a drinking water supply well. The estimated start date of the water contamination was 1957, when other improperly disposed of solvents additionally entered the mix. In 1975, Ensminger was living at Camp Lejeune. His wife was pregnant with Janey. In 1983, his daughter received her diagnosis. Ironically, unbeknownst to Ensminger, between 1980-1984, the water was being tested at the base with results consistently finding contaminants and "health concerns."

In 1985, the Commanding General at Camp Lejeune notified residents to conserve water because of well closures, but neglected to mention that 11 wells were closed due to contamination --referencing only "minute [traces] of several organic chemicals" present in the water. In actuality, the chemical levels were 20 to 280 times the safety standards of today. The last contaminated well was closed in 1987, without notification to any of the residents of Camp Lejeune, either past or present.

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pretty flowers

Where are the jobs?

August jobs report: Hiring grinds to a halt

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- So much for getting Labor Day weekend off to a good start.

Hiring slammed to a complete halt in August, as several fresh challenges put the American economy in turmoil.

Employers added no jobs during the month and the unemployment rate remained at 9.1%, the Labor Department said Friday.Collapse )


The source just has lots of people bashing Obama. Honestly, I'm teaching English right now and this is basically why I'm planning to get qualified to teach internationally. Forget this.

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