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Sunday, April 3, 2011

More Housing Shock Home Prices Have Fallen Six Consecutive Months: Mortgage Paperwork Mess




Mortgage paperwork mess: the next housing shock?

Scott Pelley reports how problems with mortgage documents are prompting lawsuits and could slow down the weak housing market

(CBS News) 
If there was a question about whether we're headed for a second housing shock, that was settled last week with news that home prices have fallen a sixth consecutive month. Values are nearly back to levels of the Great Recession. One thing weighing on the economy is the huge number of foreclosed houses.
Many are stuck on the market for a reason you wouldn't expect: banks can't find the ownership documents.
Who really owns your mortgage?
Scott Pelley explains a bizarre aftershock of the U.S. financial collapse: An epidemic of forged and missing mortgage documents.
It's bizarre but, it turns out, Wall Street cut corners when it created those mortgage-backed investments that triggered the financial collapse. Now that banks want to evict people, they're unwinding these exotic investments to find, that often, the legal documents behind the mortgages aren't there. Caught in a jam of their own making, some companies appear to be resorting to forgery and phony paperwork to throw people - down on their luck - out of their homes.
In the 1930s we had breadlines; venture out before dawn in America today and you'll find mortgage lines. This past January in Los Angeles, 37,000 homeowners facing foreclosure showed up to an event to beg their bank for lower payments on their mortgage. Some people even slept on the sidewalk to get in line.
So many in the country are desperate now that they have to meet in convention centers coast to coast.
In February in Miami, 12,000 people showed up to a similar event. The line went down the block and doubled back twice.
Video: The next housing shock
Extra: Eviction reprieve
Extra: "Save the Dream" events
Dale DeFreitas lost her job and now fears her home is next. "It's very emotional because I just think about it. I don't wanna lose my home. I really don't," she told "60 Minutes" correspondent Scott Pelley.
"It's your American dream," he remarked.
"It was. And still is," she replied.
These convention center events are put on by the non-profit Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, which helps people figure what they can afford, and then walks them across the hall to bank representatives to ask for lower payments. More than half will get their mortgages adjusted, but the rest discover that they just can't keep their home.
For many that's when the real surprise comes in: these same banks have fouled up all of their own paperwork to a historic degree.
"In my mind this is an absolute, intentional fraud," Lynn Szymoniak, who is fighting foreclosure, told Pelley.
While trying to save her house, she discovered something we did not know: back when Wall Street was using algorithms and computers to engineer those disastrous mortgage-backed securities, it appears they didn't want old fashioned paperwork slowing down the profits.
"This was back when it was a white hot fevered pitch to move as many of these as possible," Pelley remarked.
"Exactly. When you could make a whole lotta money through securitization. And every other aspect of it could be done electronically, you know, key strokes. This was the only piece where somebody was supposed to actually go get documents, transfer the documents from one entity to the other. And it looks very much like they just eliminated that stuff all together," Szymoniak said.
Szymoniak's mortgage had been bundled with thousands of others into one of those Wall Street securities traded from investor to investor. When the bank took her to court, it first said it had lost her documents, including the critical assignment of mortgage which transfers ownership. But then, there was a courthouse surprise.
"They found all of your paperwork more than a year after they initially said that they had lost it?" Pelley asked.
"Yes," she replied.
Asked if that seemed suspicious to her, Szymoniak said, "Yes, absolutely. What do you imagine? It fell behind the file cabinet? Where was all of this? 'We had it, we own it, we lost it.' And then more recently, everyone is coming in saying, 'Hey we found it. Isn't that wonderful?'"
But what the bank may not have known is that Szymoniak is a lawyer and fraud investigator with a specialty in forged documents. She has trained FBI agents.
She told Pelley she asked for copies of those documents.
Asked what she found, Szymoniak told Pelley, "When I looked at the assignment of my mortgage, and this is the assignment: it looked that even the date they put in, which was 10/17/08, was several months after they sued me for foreclosure. So, what they were saying to the court was, 'We sued her in July of 2008 and we acquired this mortgage in October of 2008.' It made absolutely no sense."

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Lithium Batteries Hazardous Cargo When Shipped by Air Proposed

This Sept. 5, 2010, file photo shows a general view of the military compound where a 747-400 Boeing cargo plane operated by United Parcel Service Inc crashed in Dubai. The cargo of a UPS plane that caught fire and crashed included lithium batteries that should have been declared as hazardous cargo, but weren't, according to an accident report released Sunday, April 3, 2011, by the Dubai government's civil aviation authority. (AP Photo/File)

Report: Lithium batteries on crashed UPS plane

April 3, 2011 By JOAN LOWY | Associated Press 

WASHINGTON -- The cargo of a United Parcel Service plane that caught fire and crashed last year included lithium batteries that should have been declared as hazardous cargo, but weren't, according to an accident report released Sunday by the Dubai government's civil aviation authority.
The report also paints a harrowing picture of two pilots struggling desperately to land their plane while running low on emergency oxygen and fighting smoke so thick they couldn't see their flight instruments or change radio frequencies.
The Boeing 747-400 crashed near the Dubai airport on Sept. 3 as the flight's first officer attempted an emergency landing. Both pilots were killed.
The report, which doesn't identify the cause of the fire, is expected to raise questions about shipments of the batteries. The batteries can short-circuit and cause fires that burn hot enough to melt an airplane.
UPS spokesman Mike Mangeot said the company is evaluating about 40 different safety technologies in response to the accident, including some that would help protect pilots' ability to see in smoke. He said the company is also reevaluating cockpit emergency oxygen systems on their planes.
The UPS plane arrived in Dubai from Hong Kong with cargo identified as "lithium batteries and electronic equipment containing or packed with lithium batteries," which were distributed throughout the cargo compartments, the report said.
There were no hazardous cargo declarations on the flight's manifest, but at least three of the shipments contained rechargeable lithium battery packs that should have been treated as hazardous cargo under international shipping regulations, the report said.
After several hours in Dubai, the plane took off for Germany. Twenty-one minutes into the flight, as the plane was approaching 32,000 feet, a fire alarm sounded. Captain Doug Lampe radioed Bahrain air traffic control that there was a fire on the plane's main deck, which is the same as a passenger cabin on an airliner. He said the plane needed to land as soon as possible.
Even though Doha International Airport was closer, Lampe requested to return to Dubai - a decision that isn't explained in the report. Three minutes after the first alarm, more alarms began to sound. The pilots donned oxygen masks and goggles, which interfered with their ability to talk to each other. About five minutes after first alarm, Lampe reported the cockpit was "full of smoke." He told First Office Matthew Bell that he was having difficulty seeing his instruments. Bell commented about the heat in the cockpit.
About two minutes later, Lampe "declared a lack of oxygen supply," turned control of the flight over to Bell and left his seat, presumably to find portable oxygen canisters, the report said. There is no indication on either the cockpit voice recorder or the flight data recorder that he ever returned, it said.
Eight minutes after the first fire alarm, Bell radioed, "Mayday, mayday, mayday can you hear me?" He advised that he had to continue using the radio frequency for Bahrain because smoke prevented him from switching to Dubai air traffic control. Bahrain controllers advised they would relay communications to the pilots of another plane who would then relay them to Dubai controllers.
A few minutes later, Bell also said he was leaving the controls to search for oxygen. He returned a short time later, but the report indicates the plane had become difficult to control. While Bell struggled to position the plane to land, it overflew the Dubai airport and crashed.
Lithium batteries are already the focus of an intense lobbying battle underway in Washington. A proposed Transportation Department rule would require that lithium batteries - like those used in watches, cellphones, laptops and countless other products - be treated as hazardous cargo when shipped by air.
Currently, only some larger lithium batteries are required to be treated as hazardous cargo. The proposed rule would require special packaging and handling of battery shipments. Pilots would have to be informed that the batteries are on board and their location. And workers who prepare the batteries for shipment would have to receive special training.
The proposal is opposed by a broad array of foreign and domestic companies, including UPS, as well as several major U.S. trading partners. They say it will cost industry hundreds of millions of dollars and disrupt international shipping.
On Friday, the House passed a Republican-drafted bill that would effectively block the proposal by requiring the U.S. to adhere to weaker international shipping standards.
Unlike other kinds of batteries, some lithium batteries contain metal that will spontaneously ignite if exposed to air. Also, the positive and negative poles in some lithium batteries are close together, leading more easily to short circuiting, which can cause a fire.
Fires involving rechargeable lithium-ion batteries can reach 1,100 degrees, close to the melting point of aluminum, a key material in airplane construction. Lithium-metal battery fires are far hotter, capable of reaching 4,000 degrees.

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Eagles Webcam Watch Hatch in Iowa Attracks Thousands Around the World


Eagles hatch in Iowa as thousands around world watch on webcam

By TIMBERLY ROSS > Associated Press | Posted: Sunday, April 3, 2011

A live video feed from northeast Iowa with a bird's eye view of eagle eggs hatching has attracted more than 100,000 followers - so many that the site crashed briefly Saturday after the first eaglet emerged.
The camera sponsored by the Raptor Resource Project shows a nest 80 feet up in a tree overlooking a trout stream at the Decorah Fish Hatchery, where a pair of eagles is welcoming their brood.
Three eggs were laid in late February, and the first eaglet started to emerge from its shell Friday. Bob Anderson, the project's executive director, said the second hatched about 5:30 a.m. Sunday and the third is expected in about three days.
"The world loves it," said Anderson, who controls with the camera angle with a joystick from a nearby shed.
Viewers can watch the adult eagles feed the hatchlings and trade shifts sitting on the nest. Anderson recently took on two volunteers to help man the camera so he could get some sleep and respond to hundreds of e-mails from eagle fans around the world. He said he got more than 500 e-mails from Saturday night to Sunday morning.
The video feed reports more than 100,000 people are watching at any given time. Anderson said a spike in traffic overloaded the site Saturday, and it was down for about two hours.
"I have had bird cams for 20 years . . . I'm in shock, I'm in awe," Anderson said of its popularity.
The camera is about the size of grapefruit and camouflaged with leaves. It's equipped with an infrared light - which the eagles can't detect - for nighttime viewing.
Sue Thomas, 66, has been watching the nest from her home in Twyford in Great Britain. She said she checks in first thing in the morning - even though it's still dark in Iowa and the eagles are sleeping.
"We have it on all the time and sort of pop in and out and have a look-see what's going on," she said.
Thomas, who enjoys watching birds in her own back yard, said her favorite shots of the eagles are when the adults stand up, revealing the little ones below. She saw one of the adults feeding shreds of a what appeared to be a rabbit to the first chick.
"It's just lovely to see what the little baby eagles are doing," Thomas said. "It's amazing to see creation going on in such a happy way."
Anderson said teachers log on for class projects and about 23 volunteers staff the site's chat room from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CST daily.
The pair of eagles have raised eight chicks since they built the nest four years ago.
During last year's nesting season, the site recorded 10 million hits and about 78,000 unique visitors who watched three eaglets hatch then, Anderson said.
Donations combined with a grant from the Upper Iowa Audubon Society paid for a technology upgrade this year, which Anderson said has improved video quality and allowed for a switch to a better hosting platform. He said that's increased the site's traffic.
Anderson said the eagles on camera, like most native to Iowa, do not migrate and live in the nest year-round. The chicks should be with them until July.

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Worker's Try to Seal Radiation Leak in Reactor 2 using newspaper and sawdust to block pipes!!! UPDATE: World's Largest Concrete Pumps Being Shipped From United States UPDATE: Japan Considers Entombing Nuclear Plant UPDATE: Japan Clean Up of Fukushima Dai-Ichi Reactors May Take 30 Years, $ 12 Billion to to Scrap

Japan nuclear crisis: workers using newspaper and sawdust to block pipes

04 Apr 2011

Japanese workers battling to stop a radioactive water leak into the Pacific from the beleaguered nuclear power plant have resorted to using newspaper and sawdust to try and block the pipes.

Workers spray adhesive synthetic resin over the ground at the plant to try and hold it together and stop the leaking .

TEPCO workers were using a polymer mixed with shredded paper and sawdust to try to close off pipes through which the water has flowed into a cracked concrete pit at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, from where it has run into the sea. An earlier attempt to seal the crack with cement failed to stop the leak.
"From the afternoon, the workers began pouring polymeric powder, sawdust, newspaper - things we could think of to clog up the holes," said Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the nuclear safety agency.
"So far, there has not been any clear indication that the volume of leaking water has been reduced."
Officials attempted attempting to seal the recently discovered crack located in a concrete pit near Reactor Two. It followed failed attempts to use concrete to close the crack, which is believed to have led to radiation leakage into run-off water that then flows into the sea. The latest samples of contaminated seawater show radiation levels at 4,000 times the legal level.
There was no difference in the amount of water running out after they poured cement into the pit," said a nuclear safety agency official. "Tepco needs to take steps to stop the leak once and for all."
Surviving staff at Fukushima are working the clock in a bid to regain control over the four severely damaged reactors at the six-unit plant. Radiation has been leaking since reactor cooling systems at the plant were knocked out by the tsunami, resulting in a series of partial meltdowns and explosions.
Authorities have emphasised that there is no public health risk in terms of seafood contamination due to a fishing ban within a 12 mile radius of the plant.
Scientists also confirmed that ocean currents will swiftly dilute the radioactive iodine-131, eliminating risks to human health and the environment.
The nuclear crisis continued to cast a grim shadow over the widespread destruction caused by the earthquake and tsunami, which left 12,009 people dead and 15,427 missing, according to the latest figures.
There were growing fears that a large quantity of bodies may never be recovered: only 167 additional bodies were reported to have been found so far during a major search of coastal and inland areas launched on Friday by the Japanese and United States military.
Two workers were named as the first official deaths at the plant yesterday, three weeks after the country was hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami.
Kazuhiko Kokubo, 24, and Yoshiki Terashima, 21, died at the plant in northeastern Japan while conducting regular checks of a reactor. The suffered multiple injuries.
The bodies were discovered last week although they were forced to undergo decontamination as a result of leaking radiation before they could be returned to their families.
"It pains me that these two young workers were trying to protect the power plant while being hit by the earthquake and tsunami," Tsunehisa Katsumata, the chairman of Tokyo Electric Power, the operator of the plant, said.
On Sunday it appeared there was no immediate end in sight to the world's worst nuclear crisis since Ukraine's Chernobyl disaster in 1986. A safety agency spokesman said it could take several more months to bring the plant under control, adding: "We'll face a crucial turning point within the next few months, but that is not the end."




Japan Nuclear Crisis: Worker Speaks Out About Radiation Dangers

U.S. Company Sends Concrete Pumps to Help Spray Water on Reactors

Foreign Help on the Way

Workers will soon have help from a U.S. company, as the world's largest concrete pumps are being shipped in from the United States.

They will first be used for spraying water from a greater distance than anything on site right now,and they might eventually be used to coat the reactors in cement and bury them for good.

Tokyo Electric Power said a remote-controlled robot being shipped from the the United States will also be used to check high radiation areas, according to the Associated Press.


An aerial handout photograph taken on Thursday, March 24, 2011, from an unmanned airplane, shows Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, Japan, released to the media, on March 30, 2011. Source: Air Photo Service via Bloomberg _________________________________________________________________________


March 30 (Bloomberg) -- Damaged reactors at the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant in Japan may take three decades to decommission and cost operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. more than 1 trillion yen ($12 billion), engineers and analysts said. Bloomberg's Sara Eisen reports. (Source: Bloomberg) 

Fukushima Workers Face Risk of Uncontrolled Reactions, Atomic Agency Says

Japan’s damaged nuclear plant may be in danger of emitting sudden bursts of heat and radiation, undermining efforts to cool the reactors and contain fallout.
The potential for limited, uncontrolled chain reactions, voiced yesterday by the International Atomic Energy Agency, is among the phenomena that might occur, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters in Tokyo today. The IAEA “emphasized that the nuclear reactors won’t explode,” he said.
Three workers at a separate Japanese plant received high doses of radiation in 1999 from a similar nuclear reaction, known as ‘criticality.’ Two of them died within seven months.
Tokyo Electric Power Co., the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant’s operator, and Japan’s nuclear watchdog, dismissed the threat of renewed nuclear reactions, three weeks after an earthquake and tsunami triggered an automatic shutdown. Tokyo Electric has been spraying water on the reactors since the March 11 disaster in an effort to cool nuclear fuel rods.
“The reactors are stopped, so it’s hard to imagine re- criticality,” occurring, Tsuyoshi Makigami, a spokesman for the utility, told a news conference today.
A partial meltdown of fuel in the No. 1 reactor building may be causing isolated reactions, Denis Flory, nuclear safety director for the IAEA, said at a press conference in Vienna. This might increase the danger to workers at the site.

‘Ethereal Blue Flash’

Nuclear experts call such reactions “localized criticality.” They consist of a burst of heat, radiation and sometimes an “ethereal blue flash,” according to the U.S. Energy Department’s Los Alamos National Laboratory website. Twenty-one workers worldwide have been killed by criticality accidents since 1945, the site said.
The IAEA acknowledged “they don’t have clear signs that show such a phenomenon is happening,” Edano said.
Radioactive chlorine found March 25 in the No. 1 turbine building suggests chain reactions continued after the reactor shut down, physicist Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California, wrote in a March 28 paper. Radioactive chlorine has a half-life of 37 minutes, according to the report.
Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said there’s no possibility of uncontrolled chain reactions. Boron, an element that absorbs neutrons and hinders nuclear fission, has been mixed with cooling water to prevent this, Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the agency, told reporters today.

Ocean Contamination

Contamination of seawater found near the 40-year-old plant has increased. Radioactive iodine rose to 4,385 times the regulated safety limit yesterday from 2,572 times on Tuesday, Nishiyama said. No fishing is occurring nearby and the sea is dispersing the iodine so there is no health threat, he said.
There was 180 becquerel per cubic centimeter of radioactive iodine-131 found in the ocean 330 meters (1,082 feet) south of the plant. Drinking one liter of fresh water with that level would be equivalent to getting double the annual dose of radiation a person typically receives.
Workers have averted the threat of a total meltdown by injecting water into the damaged reactors. The complex’s six units have been reconnected with the power grid and two are using temporary motor-driven pumps. Work to repair the plant’s monitoring and cooling systems has been hampered by discoveries of hazardous radioactive water.
Dismantling the plant and decontaminating the site may take 30 years and cost Tokyo Electric more than 1 trillion yen ($12 billion), engineers and analysts said. The government hasn’t ruled out pouring concrete over the whole facility as one way to shut it down, Edano said. Tokyo is 135 miles (220 kilometers) south of the Dai-Ichi power plant.

Dumping Concrete

Dumping concrete on the plant would serve a second purpose: it would trap contaminated water, said Tony Roulstone, an atomic engineer who directs the University of Cambridge’s masters program in nuclear energy.
“They need to immobilize this water and they need something to soak it up,” he said. “You don’t want to create another hazard, but you need to get it away from the reactors.”
The process will take longer than the 12 years needed to decommission the Three Mile Island reactor in Pennsylvania following a partial meltdown in 1979, said Hironobu Unesaki, a nuclear engineering professor at Kyoto University.

Investors Wiped Out

Moody’s Japan K.K. cut its rating on Tokyo Electric and warned it may reduce it further, saying the problems at Fukushima “appear far from being resolved” and the company is likely to remain unprofitable for a long time. Senior secured and long-term issuer ratings were downgraded to Baa1 from A1, Moody’s said in a statement.
Tokyo Electric’s shareholders may be wiped out by clean-up costs and liabilities stemming from the nuclear accident, the worst since Chernobyl. The company, known as Tepco, faces claims of as much as 11 trillion yen if the crisis lasts two years and potential takeover by the government, according to a March 29 Bank of America Merrill Lynch report.
Radiation “far below” levels that pose a risk to humans was found in milk from California and Washington, the first signs Japan’s nuclear accident is affecting U.S. food, state and Obama administration officials said.
The U.S. is stepping up monitoring of radiation in milk, rain and drinking water, the Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration said yesterday in a statement.
Radiation levels in the U.K. are normal and extra testing isn’t needed to protect the food supply, the Food Standards Agency said.
The number of dead and missing from the earthquake and tsunami had reached 27,690 as of 10 a.m. today, Japan’s National Police Agency said.

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Why Doctors “opt out” Naked Body Scanners at Airports, avoiding all sources of radiation whenever possible


Doctors on why they avoid naked body scanners at airports

Ethan A. Huff
April 3, 2011

For those still contemplating whether or not the radiation emitted from airport naked body scanners is serious enough to avoid, you may be interested to know that many doctors routinely “opt out” and choose the full-body pat down instead because they recognize the inherent dangers associated with any level of radiation exposure. A recent CNN piece explains that for many doctors, avoiding all sources of radiation whenever possible is just the smart thing to do.
Throughout the past year, NaturalNews has covered many stories related to the US Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) controversial naked body scanners, which are now installed and in use at nearly 80 US airports (http://www.tsa.gov/approach/tech/ai…). Besides representing an unconstitutional invasion of privacy (http://www.tsa.gov/approach/tech/ai…), the scanners blast passengers with full-body doses of health-destroying radiation (http://www.naturalnews.com/naked_bo…).
So what do medical doctors who fly have to say about the machines? Well, according to CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen who recently conducted her own small investigation, many are concerned about the radiation these scanners emit. In fact, Cohen quotes several doctors who express concern about the cumulative effects of repeated radiation exposure, even if such exposure is supposedly miniscule and below established thresholds for causing harm.
“I do whatever I can to avoid the scanner. This is a total body scan — not a dental or chest X-ray,” said Dr. Len Lichtenfield to Cohen in an email. “Total body radiation is not something I find very comforting based on my medical knowledge.”
Another doctor explained that there is “no absolutely safe dose of radiation,” and that “each exposure is additive.” So even if the supposedly low radiation doses emitted from the naked body scanners are as low as TSA and the machines’ manufacturers claim they are, habitual exposure will still cause bodily harm.

Even Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society (ACS) expressed concern about whether the safety of them machines, and whether or not TSA is properly maintaining and testing them for safety. After all, TSA refused to release safety reports for quite some time, and when they did, the bungled reports explained nothing more than TSA’s high level of incompetence (http://www.naturalnews.com/031792_a…).
Stock up with Fresh Food that lasts with eFoodsDirect (Ad)
Back in December, radiation scientists admitted that naked body scanners are fully capable of causing both sperm mutations and cancer, despite insistence by authorities to the contrary (http://www.naturalnews.com/030607_n…). Other reports suggest that nobody really knows how much radiation is actually emitted from naked body scanners due to flawed and inconclusive safety tests (http://www.naturalnews.com/031792_a…)
Sources for this story include:

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Dog Rescued Off Roof in Pacific Ocean 3 Weeks After Japan Tsunami

 April 1, 2011

A story of survival is lifting spirits in Japan.

A small dog was spotted by the Japanese Coast Guard in the Pacific Ocean, about a mile off the coast of Japan.

The dog was spotted on a roof in the middle of a floating island of debris that probably was swept out to sea by the receding tsunami.

Against all the odds, the dog appears to have survived by living in a partially submerged house that had been swept out to sea.

When a coast guard crew member dropped down off the rescue helicopter, the frightened dog hid for a time. But rescuers were finally able to get the pooch on board.

Despite being out at sea for apparently three weeks, the dog appeared to be in fair condition.

The dog was not wearing a collar. So for now, the dog has a new home aboard the Japanese coast guard ship. 

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