Foreclosures Profiteering, Privatized Intelligence,
the CIA and UFOs
Revealing News Articles
November 10, 2007
Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on profiteering by lenders and loan servicers during foreclosures, Blackwater's new privatized intelligence services to governments and corporations, the history of the CIA's investigation of UFOs, and more. Each excerpt is taken verbatim from the major media website listed at the link provided. If any link fails to function, click here. Key sentences are highlighted for those with limited time. By choosing to educate ourselves and to spread the word, we can and will build a brighter future.
Dubious Fees Hit Borrowers in Foreclosures
November 6, 2007, New York Times
As record numbers of homeowners default on their mortgages, questionable practices among lenders are coming to light in bankruptcy courts, leading some legal specialists to contend that companies instigating foreclosures may be taking advantage of imperiled borrowers. Because there is little oversight of foreclosure practices and the fees that are charged, bankruptcy specialists fear that some consumers may be losing their homes unnecessarily or that mortgage servicers, who collect loan payments, are profiting from foreclosures. Bankruptcy specialists say lenders and loan servicers often do not comply with even the most basic legal requirements, like correctly computing the amount a borrower owes on a foreclosed loan or providing proof of holding the mortgage note in question. "Regulators need to look beyond their current, myopic focus on loan origination and consider how servicers' calculation and collection practices leave families vulnerable to foreclosure," said Katherine M. Porter, associate professor of law at the University of Iowa. In an analysis of foreclosures in Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the program intended to help troubled borrowers save their homes, Ms. Porter found that questionable fees had been added to almost half of the loans she examined, and many of the charges were identified only vaguely. Collectively they could raise millions of dollars for loan servicers at a time when the other side of the business, mortgage origination, has faltered. In one example, Ms. Porter found that a lender had filed a claim stating that the borrower owed more than $1 million. But after the loan history was scrutinized, the balance turned out to be $60,000. And a judge in Louisiana is considering an award for sanctions against Wells Fargo in a case in which the bank assessed improper fees and charges that added more than $24,000 to a borrower's loan.
Blackwater's Owner Has Spies for Hire
November 3, 2007, Washington Post
The Prince Group, the holding company that owns Blackwater Worldwide, has been building an operation that will [develop] intelligence ... for clients in industry and government. The operation, Total Intelligence Solutions, has assembled a roster of former ... high-ranking figures from agencies such as the CIA and defense intelligence. Its chairman is Cofer Black, the former head of counterterrorism at CIA known for his leading role in many of the agency's more controversial programs, including the rendition and interrogation of ... suspects and the detention of some of them in secret prisons overseas. Its chief executive is Robert Richer, a former CIA associate deputy director of operations who was heavily involved in running the agency's role in the Iraq war. Because of its roster and its ties to owner Erik Prince, the multimillionaire former Navy SEAL, the company's thrust into this world highlights the blurring of lines between government, industry and activities formerly reserved for agents operating in the shadows. Richer, for instance, once served as the chief of the CIA's Near East division and is said to have ties to King Abdullah of Jordan. The CIA had spent millions helping train Jordan's intelligence service in exchange for information. Now Jordan has hired Blackwater to train its special forces. "Cofer can open doors," said Richer, who served 22 years at the CIA. "I can open doors. We can generally get in to see who we need to see. We ... can deal with the right minister or person." "They have the skills and background to do anything anyone wants," said RJ Hillhouse, who writes a national security blog called The Spy Who Billed Me. "There's no oversight. They're an independent company offering freelance espionage services. They're rent-a-spies."
Plan 9 from outer space
November 3, 2007, Sydney Morning Herald (Australia's leading newspaper)
In January 1979, The New York Times reported that despite repeated, feverish denials, the CIA had indeed investigated the UFO phenomenon. The report is said to have so upset the then CIA director, Stansfield Turner, that he reportedly asked his staff: "Are we in UFOs?" The answer was yes. This year a raft of newly unclassified CIA documents revealed that the remote possibility of alien invasion elicited greater fear than the threat of a Soviet nuclear attack. The subject of UFOs ... not only focused the attention of the US government elite for 50 years, but of some of the greatest scientific and military minds of the era. The CIA documents show that despite decades of repeated public denials, behind the scenes there raged a series of inter-agency feuds that involved the highest levels of the US government. UFO files cover everything from "flying saucers over Belgian Congo uranium mines" to Nazi "flying saucers". A 1953 memo shows that the physicist John Wheeler, while critically involved with Edward Teller in the creation of the hydrogen bomb, was available to the "CIA attack on the flying saucer" problem. A secret 1995 report was titled: CIA's role in the study of UFOs 1947-90: a diehard issue. Written by Gerald Haines, the CIA's National Reconnaissance Office historian, its detailed summary of CIA involvement inadvertently undermined its "UFOs-don't-exist" conclusion. Although the air force was the agency given the task of investigating UFOs from 1948 onwards, the CIA remained deeply involved. Some of their highlights, quoting directly from the documents, include: "[Since] 1947 there have been about 1500 official reports of sightings and [of these] the air force carries 20 per cent as unexplained."
Note: For a concise summary of UFO evidence from highly-respected former US government and military officials, click here.
Librarians Say Surveillance Bills Lack Adequate Oversight
November 2, 2007, Washington Post
A little-remarked feature of pending legislation on domestic surveillance has provoked alarm among university and public librarians who say it could allow federal intelligence-gathering on library patrons without sufficient court oversight. Draft House and Senate bills would allow the government to compel any "communications service provider" to provide access to e-mails and other electronic information within the United States. The Justice Department has previously said that "providers" may include libraries, causing three major university and library groups to worry that the government's ability to monitor people targeted for surveillance without a warrant would chill students' and faculty members' online research activities. "It is fundamental that when a user enters the library, physically or electronically," said Jim Neal, the head librarian at Columbia University, "their use of the collections, print or electronic, their communications on library servers and computers, is not going to be subjected to surveillance unless the courts have authorized it." The librarians said their concern about such monitoring is rooted in recent history. In the summer of 2005, FBI agents handed an administrative subpoena called a national security letter (NSL) to a Connecticut librarian, and demanded subscriber, billing and other information on patrons who used a specific computer at a branch library. NSLs can be approved by certain FBI agents without court approval. The agents ordered the librarian to keep the demand secret. But he refused to produce the records, and his employer filed suit, challenging the gag order. A federal judge in September 2005 declared the gag order unconstitutional. The Association of Research Libraries, ... the American Library Association ... and the Association of American Universities ... each say they seek to amend the draft bills to make clear that the term "communications provider" does not include libraries.
Note: For more eye-opening reports from major media sources on the erosion of civil liberties, click here.
N.Y.'s Cuomo alleges appraiser, lender collusion upped home values
November 2, 2007, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
In a major legal action alleging misdeeds in the mortgage business, New York's attorney general [Andrew Cuomo] has accused appraisers of helping fuel the nation's foreclosure crisis by pumping up home values at the behest of lenders and other real estate professionals. The lawsuit said that First American eAppraiseIT, a subsidiary of Fortune 500 company First American Corp., caved in to pressure from Washington Mutual to rely on "proven appraisers" who were willing to inflate home prices. Washington Mutual profited from the artificially high appraisals because they allowed the company to close more home loans at greater values, the lawsuit said. First American, a provider of business information, title insurance and related services, wanted to win more business from Washington Mutual, the suit said. The lawsuit comes in the midst of the nation's subprime lending crisis, which industry experts say could cause up to 2 million homes to be lost to foreclosure over the next couple of years. Most subprime foreclosures are caused by a confluence of two factors: mortgage payments that rise when adjustable loans reset, and home prices that are lower than the amount owed on the mortgage. A moribund real estate market has caused prices to flatten or fall. But if home prices were artificially high to begin with - which would be the case if appraisers inflated values, as the lawsuit alleged - the likelihood increases of homeowners owing more on the mortgage than their properties are worth. Cuomo said fraudulent appraisal practices were pervasive in the industry. At a news conference announcing the lawsuit, he said lenders, mortgage brokers, real estate agents and others frequently pressured appraisers to "come in with the right number, the number that justifies the transaction" so that everyone in the chain would receive commissions.
From the Desk of Donald Rumsfeld . . .
November 1, 2007, Washington Post
In a series of internal musings and memos to his staff, then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld argued that Muslims avoid "physical labor" and wrote of the need to "keep elevating the threat," "link Iraq to Iran" and develop "bumper sticker statements" to rally public support for an increasingly unpopular war. The memos [reveal] a defense secretary disdainful of media criticism and driven to reshape public opinion of the Iraq war. In a 2004 memo on the deteriorating situation in Iraq, Rumsfeld concluded that the challenges there are "not unusual." Pessimistic news reports ... simply result from the wrong standards being applied, he wrote in one of the memos obtained by The Washington Post. Under siege in April 2006, when a series of retired generals denounced him and called for his resignation in newspaper op-ed pieces, Rumsfeld produced a memo after a conference call with military analysts. "Talk about Somalia, the Philippines, etc. Make the American people realize they are surrounded in the world by violent extremists," he wrote. People will "rally" to sacrifice, he noted after the meeting. "They are looking for leadership. Sacrifice = Victory." The meeting also led Rumsfeld to write that he needed a team to help him "go out and push people back, rather than simply defending" Iraq policy and strategy. "I am always on the defense. They say I do it well, but you can't win on the defense," he wrote. "We can't just keep taking hits." Rumsfeld suggested that the public should know that there will be no "terminal event" in the fight against terrorism like the signing ceremony on the USS Missouri when Japan surrendered to end World War II. "It is going to be a long war," he wrote. In one of his longer ruminations, in May 2004, Rumsfeld considered whether to redefine the terrorism fight as a "worldwide insurgency." The goal of the enemy, he wrote, is to "end the state system, using terrorism, to drive the non-radicals from the world."
Rep. Dennis Kucinich Acknowledges UFO Sighting
October 31, 2007, FOX News
The truth is out there, and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich had no trouble offering his version of it when asked ... about his UFO sighting. "It was an unidentified flying object, OK? It's, like, it's unidentified," Kucinich said during one of the few highlights at the Democratic presidential debate in Philadelphia. "I saw something." Kucinich, whose UFO run-in came to light last week in a passage from Shirley MacLaine's new book [Sage-ing While Age-ing], went on to joke that he planned to move his campaign office to Roswell, N.M. Roswell is the place where legend holds a spacecraft crash-landed in 1947 and was recovered and moved for investigation to nearby Area 51, a secretive U.S. government airbase in Nevada. Kucinich went on to [say] many Americans have shared his experience. "You have to keep in mind that more – that Jimmy Carter saw a UFO and also that more people in this country have seen UFOs than I think approve of George Bush's presidency," Kucinich said. According to MacLaine, Kucinich saw the UFO in the 1980s while visiting the actress at her home in Washington state. "He saw a gigantic triangular craft, silent and observing him," MacLaine wrote. "It hovered for about 10 minutes or so and sped away with a speed he couldn't comprehend. He felt a connection in his heart and heard directions in his mind."
Note: For many powerful accounts of UFO sightings reported by reliable sources, click here.
War Protests: Why No Coverage?
October 30, 2007, Christian Science Monitor
Coordinated antiwar protests in at least 11 American cities this weekend raised anew an interesting question about the nature of news coverage: Are the media ignoring rallies against the Iraq war because of their low turnout or is the turnout dampened by the lack of news coverage? I find it unsettling that I even have to consider the question. That most Americans oppose the war in Iraq is well established. Poll after poll has found substantial discontent with a war that ranks as the preeminent issue in the presidential campaign. Given that context, it seems remarkable to me that in some of the 11 cities in which protests were held – Boston and New York, for example – major news outlets treated this "National Day of Action" as though it did not exist. As far as I can tell, neither The New York Times nor The Boston Globe had so much as a news brief about the march in the days leading up to it. The day after, The Times, at least in its national edition, totally ignored the thousands who marched in New York and the tens of thousands who marched nationwide. The Globe relegated the news of 10,000 spirited citizens (including me) marching through Boston's rain-dampened streets to a short piece deep inside its metro section. A single sentence noted the event's national context. As a former newspaper editor, I was most taken aback by the silence beforehand. Surely any march of widespread interest warrants a brief news item to let people know that the event is taking place and that they can participate. It's called "advancing the news," and it has a time-honored place in American newsrooms.
Note: For hard-hitting critiques by famous journalists of major-media censorship of important news, click here.
Was Bin Laden's last video faked?
October 29, 2007, MSNBC
When [the] first Osama Bin Laden video in nearly three years [appeared], most of the media attention was focused on Bin Laden's beard. It appeared either dyed – or perhaps even pasted on. He was ridiculed and a variety of theories were offered to explain it. But now, there is a running debate among video analysts about whether, rather than being new, the September 7 [video] may have been something recorded at the same time as [the] last video in October 2004 (and then released with new audio). Of the 25 minutes of video tape, only three and a half minutes, were moving video. The rest was covered by a still image or a frozen still. Moreover, the still covered the only time references on the 25 minutes of tape– references to political developments in Iraq, Britain and France. This led to the suspicion that the video is not new, but disguised to appear as new. The leading proponent of the theory is computer scientist ... Dr. Neal Krawetz of Colorado ... who [says] that the similarities between the October 29, 2004 tape and the September 7, 2007 tape are too great to be coincidental. "Here is Bin Laden in the same clothing, same studio, same studio setup, and same desk three years later," [said] Krawetz ... in an interview with NBC News. "In fact, [the] papers that he reads are moved between the exact same stacks. What are the chances of nothing changing (except his beard) in three years? Virtually zero. The clips appear to have been recorded three years ago. I am saying the two videos were likely made either on the same day or within days of each other." The CIA will not say what it thinks about the possibility, but a senior U.S. intelligence official tells NBC News the U.S. believes the tape is new. He would not discuss the reasons why intelligence analysts feel that way.
Note: For a succinct summary of many reports from major media sources that suggest the US government's explanation of what happened on 9/11 cannot be true, click here.
Ex-defence minister joins search for aliens
October 27, 2007, Toronto Star (Toronto's leading newspaper)
Victor Viggiani has one of the toughest jobs in the universe. The retired elementary school principal spends his time lobbying reporters to blow a massive government cover-up wide open and reveal that extra-terrestrials have been visiting our planet for years. "I have no intention of convincing anybody of anything," said Viggiani, 59, director of media relations for Exopolitics Toronto, a non-profit educational group pushing for full disclosure of the truth about off-world beings. "What I do is point them to the evidence." Exopolitics is a field of study that has moved far beyond the question of whether we are alone in the universe. Its supporters believe there is enough evidence out there that they can state as fact that a) intelligent, sentient, ethical extra-terrestrials exist; b) they have made contact; and c) they probably have [many] lessons to teach us about sustainable energy sources and countless other matters of global importance. Viggiani [has] found [a] champion in Paul Hellyer, who was federal defence minister in Lester B. Pearson's cabinet. "I think the significance – and they are probably exaggerating it – but the significance is that I'm the first person of cabinet rank in the G8 to have come out openly and unequivocally and said the extra-terrestrial presence is real," said Hellyer. Stephen Bassett, executive director of the Paradigm Research Group in Washington, D.C., said the dearth of serious coverage has [him] suspecting whether publishers and national security forces are working together to keep things quiet. "The failure of the major media in the United States to cover the ET issue is one of the great failures of all journalism," he said.
Note: For powerful accounts of UFO sightings reported now and again by reliable sources, click here.
State Department Use of Contractors Leaps in 4 Years
October 19, 2007, New York Times
Over the past four years, the amount of money the State Department pays to private security and law enforcement contractors has soared to nearly $4 billion a year from $1 billion, ... but ... the department had added few new officials to oversee the contracts. Auditors and outside exerts say the results have been vast cost overruns, poor contract performance and, in some cases, violence that has so far gone unpunished. A vast majority of the money goes to companies like DynCorp International and Blackwater [Worldwide] to protect diplomats overseas, train foreign police forces and assist in drug eradication programs. There are only 17 contract compliance officers at the State Department's management bureau overseeing spending of the billions of dollars on these programs, officials said. Two new reports have delivered harsh judgments about the State Department's handling of the contracts, including the protective services contract that employs Blackwater guards whose involvement in a Sept. 16 shooting in Baghdad has raised questions about their role in guarding American diplomats in Iraq. The ballooning budget for outside contracts at the State Department is emblematic of a broader trend, contracting experts say. The Bush administration has doubled the amount of government money going to all types of contractors to $400 billion, creating a new and thriving class of post-9/11 corporations carrying out delicate work for the government. But the number of government employees issuing, managing and auditing contracts has barely grown. "That's a criticism that's true of not just State but of almost every agency," said Jody Freeman, an expert on administrative law at Harvard Law School.
The 'Good Germans' Among Us
October 14, 2007, New York Times
"Bush lies" doesn't cut it anymore. It's time to confront the darker reality that we are lying to ourselves. By any legal standards except those rubber-stamped by Alberto Gonzales, we are practicing torture, and we have known we are doing so ever since photographic proof emerged from Abu Ghraib more than three years ago. As Andrew Sullivan, once a Bush cheerleader, observed last weekend in The Sunday Times of London, America's "enhanced interrogation" techniques have a grotesque provenance: "Verschärfte Vernehmung, enhanced or intensified interrogation, was the exact term innovated by the Gestapo to describe what became known as the 'third degree.' It left no marks. It included hypothermia, stress positions and long-time sleep deprivation." We must ... examine our own responsibility for the hideous acts committed in our name in a war where we have now fought longer than we did in the one that put Verschärfte Vernehmung on the map. The war was sold by a ... fear-fueled White House propaganda campaign designed to stampede a nation still shellshocked by 9/11. Both Congress and the press – the powerful institutions that should have provided the checks, balances and due diligence of the administration's case – failed to do their job. Had they done so, more Americans might have raised more objections. This perfect storm of democratic failure began at the top. [But] as the war has dragged on, it is hard to give Americans en masse a pass. We are too slow to notice, let alone protest, the calamities that have followed the original sin. Our humanity has been compromised by those who use Gestapo tactics in our war. The longer we stand idly by while they do so, the more we resemble those "good Germans" who professed ignorance of their own Gestapo.
Special note: To hear the inspiring story of a soldier who found peace in a war zone, and to better understand what life is like there, listen to the 16-minute public radio clip available here.
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Foreclosures Profiteering, Privatized Intelligence, the CIA and UFOs