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Bank of America has announced plans to lift its moratorium on home foreclosures in twenty-three states and move ahead with plans to foreclose on 100,000 more homes. The announcement came just ten days after the nation’s largest bank imposed a nationwide halt on foreclosures following revelations that employees at several lenders had approved thousands of foreclosure affidavits and other documents without proper vetting. Another major lender, GMAC Mortgage, has also said it will resume foreclosing on homes. Last week, attorneys general in all fifty states opened a joint investigation into home foreclosures. On Monday, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said he still has concerns despite Bank of America and GMAC’s decision to resume foreclosures. A spokesperson for Miller told the Wall Street Journal, “They’ve assured us that they are fixing this problem, but we’re not just going to take their word for it.”
Meanwhile, the Florida Attorney General’s office has revealed new details about how workers at a so-called foreclosure mill were bribed in exchange for altering and forging key documents used to obtain foreclosures. The workers were given free houses, BMWs, jewelry and cell phones.
Joe Miller, the Republican Senate nominee in Alaska, has defended a decision made by his private security guards to detain and handcuff a reporter at a public meeting on Sunday. Miller accused Tony Hopfinger, the editor of the website Alaska Dispatch, of harassing him and following him into a bathroom while trying to get an interview. In an interview on Fox News, Miller dismissed charges that the guards violated Hopfinger’s First Amendment rights.
Joe Miller: “Well, I have been the most transparent, most successful candidate of the three. That town hall meeting was full of people with questions and we answered them. So, if anybody is going to talk about the First Amendment, we are huge proponents of it and we like to have the free exchange of ideas and that is what happened up until this guy just starting crossing the line.”
Private security guards working for the firm Drop Zone handcuffed Hopfinger, and detained him in a hallway of the school for 25 minutes until police arrived and ordered his release. Private security guards also tried to prevent two other reporters from filming the detention but a reporter from the Anchorage Daily News briefly spoke with Hopfinger.
Tony Hopfinger: At that point they took me down here.
Reporter: Who is they?
Tony Hopfinger: All of these guys and they handcuffed me and then they called the police.
Reporter: How did they get the handcuffs on? How did you let them handcuff you? They used force?
Tony Hopfinger: They used force to put me in handcuffs.
The Anchorage Daily News has also revealed that two of the private security guards who detained the reporter were active-duty soldiers moonlighting for the security firm.
A federal jury has found four men from New York state guilty of plotting to bomb a synagogue and a Jewish community center in the Bronx. The men known as the Newburgh 4 were arrested in an FBI sting operation. All four were from Newburgh, one of the poorest cities in New York. Defense attorneys argued the men were entrapped by government agents and not predisposed to commit a terrorist crime. Alicia McWilliams-McCollum, the aunt of one of the defendants, recently spoke with Democracy Now!
Alicia McWilliams-McCollum: “This is entrapment. You’re going to send an informant into an impoverished community, the most impoverished county, to do your trickery. You ain’t stumbled upon a cell. Nobody ain’t tell you that someone was plotting to do anything. You created a crime!”
Visit our website to watch our recent investigation on the FBI’s reliance on paid informants produced by Anjali Kamat and Jacquie Soohen.
At least six people have died after militants attacked the parliament in Chechnya. A suicide bomber reportedly detonated explosives outside the parliament while gunmen went on a shooting spree inside the building. The militants are believed to be separatists who back independence for Chechnya from Russia.
The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a case that will determine whether Attorney General John Ashcroft can be sued by a US citizen who claims he was illegally detained and treated as a terrorist following the September 11 attacks. Abdullah al-Kidd sued Ashcroft after being jailed for fifteen nights under the federal material-witness statute. The former college football star was released without being charged with a crime.
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a mentally ill North Carolina man who was wrongly deported to Mexico even though he was a US citizen who spoke no Spanish, had never been to Mexico and had no Mexican heritage. Following his deportation, the man, Mark Lyttle, ended up spending four months living on the streets and in the shelters and prisons of Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala. Lawyers say Lyttle is one of many mentally ill Americans that have been swept up in the US immigration detention system.
Arizona Republican State Senator Russell Pearce has announced plans to introduce a bill this January to strip US-born children of undocumented immigrants of their citizenship. If the bill passes, children of such immigrants will lose access to state-administered programs in Arizona even though they would still be considered citizens under federal law.
The New York Times reports the Obama administration plans to ask Congress next year to approve legislation that requires phone and broadband carriers to ensure that their networks can be wiretapped by the government. A similar law is already on the books, but officials say it has not prevented some of the nation’s major telecommunications companies from making network changes that disrupt the government’s ability to conduct wiretaps.
In other technology news, the Wall Street Journal has revealed Facebook users are inadvertently providing access to their names and in some cases even their friend’s names to advertising and internet tracking companies. The issue affects tens of millions of Facebook app users, including people who set their profiles to Facebook’s strictest privacy settings.
Anindya Ghose, associate professor at New York University: “The average person should be aware of what is going on, just in general, because whatever you post online, if there is a digital trail, that’s going to be recorded, you know, for keeps. It’s going to stay there forever. So I think the average person should know that whatever information they release on Facebook, that’s going to be available to somebody or the other at any point in time.”
France’s main labor unions are staging a nationwide strike today to oppose plans by the government to increase the minimum retirement age from sixty to sixty-two. Over 1,500 gas stations have run out of fuel following the shutdown last week of the nation’s oil refineries. Trains are running on half service, and many schools have closed down. In Paris, young protesters put up barricades in the streets to block traffic.
Madhia, French high school student: “We, high school students, aren’t happy. We’re not in a majority, we don’t represent everything that’s happening in France, but we really want to show with this little action that the demonstrations that are taking place, all the blockades, everything that’s taking place in the high schools, all of that, we want to show how unhappy we are and to show that we’re being placed in danger by these policies.”
A graphic video has emerged that appears to show the torture of indigenous West Papuan men by the Indonesian military. The nearly five-minute-long video was posted to YouTube by the Asian Human Rights Commission on Saturday but was removed later that same day by the social networking site due to its shocking content. In one scene, the torturers hold to the throat of a Papuan man who is nearly naked on the ground. In another, a victim has his genitals burned with a heated bamboo stick. Indonesia seized West Papua in 1962, and although the territory was granted autonomy in 2001, human rights violations by the Indonesian military against West Papuans continue.
The Obama administration is expected to announce a $2 billion military package for Pakistan when the US and Pakistan hold high-level talks later this week. Pakistan’s military will use the money to buy US-made helicopters, weapons systems and equipment to intercept communications. The aid also includes more counterinsurgency assistance and a program that will allow members of Pakistan’s military to study at American war colleges. Meanwhile, Pakistanis continue to be devastated by the floods that have swept across Pakistan affecting nearly 20 million people. The UN’s $2 billion aid appeal for the floods, which was launched nearly a month ago, remains only 34 percent funded.
A top Canadian military commander has pleaded guilty to scores of crimes against women including two murders, rape and dozens of home break-ins conducted to steal underwear. Prior to his arrest in April, Col. David Russell Williams was one of Canada’s top military officials. He commanded Canada’s largest air base in Afghanistan and frequently piloted planes for dignitaries, including Queen Elizabeth II.
And the City of New York has agreed to pay nearly $1 million to settle a lawsuit filed by eighty-three cyclists who claimed they were wrongly arrested while taking part in the Critical Mass bike ride.