Jan 11 2013

Weekly Digest – 01/11/13

Our weekly edition is a nationally syndicated one-hour digest of the best of our daily coverage.

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This week on Uprising:

* Federal Regulators Settle With Big Banks Over Foreclosure Fraud for a Few Hundred Dollars Per Homeowner
* Reflections on the 11th Anniversary of Guantanamo
* Rape Culture Pervasive and Justice for Rape Victims Elusive
* Scientists Find Strong Correlation Between Childhood Lead Exposure and Violent Crime

* * *

Federal Regulators Settle With Big Banks Over Foreclosure Fraud for a Few Hundred Dollars Per Homeowner

Ten of the nation’s largest banks reached a settlement with federal regulators this past week that cuts short a foreclosure review process in exchange for paying out $3.3 billion in cash and offering $5.2 billion worth of program credits such as loan modification, to affected homeowners. More than four million homeowners who were foreclosed upon between 2009-2010 were invited to submit paperwork for a free review of their foreclosure processes but only about half a million did so. Still, that number was apparently too great, and the process too complicated for bank-employed reviewers.

At stake are charges by homeowners contending that widespread errors and rampant negligence by banks in handling home loans led to improper foreclosures and the loss of people’s homes.

Banks spent a total of $1.5 billion to begin reviewing these foreclosures, and even though the reviewers hired were meant to be independent, the investigative media outlet ProPublica found that consultants who depended upon the banks for other business were the ones hired to do the reviews, making their actual independence questionable. In fact, the total number of homeowners determined by reviewers to have been harmed by banks during foreclosures processes was minuscule, prompting harsh criticism from consumer advocates.

While the details of the settlement are still vague, officials from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) explained that homeowners would be classified into about a dozen categories depending upon how much harm they were determined to have suffered. Based on their classification, consumers could receive anywhere between $125,000 to a few hundred dollars, and those who requested reviews would get more than those who did not.

The ten banks involved in the settlement included Bank of America, Wells Fargo, J P Morgan Chase, and Citigroup.This settlement is separate from a $25 billion settlement between five banks and State Attorneys General last year, also around the issue of foreclosures.

GUEST: Paul Kiel, reporter with ProPublica, author of the e-book, The Great American Foreclosure Crisis. Kiel won the Society of American Business Editors and Writers Best in Business Award for Investigative Reporting, as well as the Scripps Howard Award in Business/Economics Reporting for his work on the foreclosure crisis.

Click here to read Paul Kiel’s work.

Reflections on the 11th Anniversary of Guantanamo

Friday January 11th marked the eleventh anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center. The notorious facility received its first 20 prisoners on January 11, 2002. In the years since, shocking revelations of prisoner abuse, prisoner suicide and repeated desecrations of the Koran have dogged both the Bush and Obama administrations.

As recently as September 2012 Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, a prisoner on hunger strike, joined 8 others who had died during their incarceration at Guantanamo. Military investigators reported that his death was self-inflicted. According to his lawyer, Latif stated, “…death [is] more desirable than living.”

Despite signing an executive order on January 22, 2009, to shut down Guantanamo within one year, President Obama has failed to live up to his promise. Obama faced broad opposition from Congress and even public dissent, as revealed in a 2009 Gallup poll showing that 65% of Americans opposed the closing of the facility. As recently as February 2012 a Washington Post/ABC poll showed 70% public approval for keeping Guantanamo open. In May 2009 the Senate and the House of Representatives voted to prevent any detainees held at Guantanamo Bay from being transferred to the United States.

At its peak, Guantanamo housed a total of 779 detainees from 28 countries, including 15 children, according to military documents brought to light by Wikileaks. Today 166 remain locked up in the center while 600 have been transferred to other facilities.

Despite the obstacles to his ability to close Guantanamo, human rights groups are criticizing Obama for not taking a stronger stand. Some of that criticism surrounds his unwillingness to veto the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013. In approving the NDAA, critics say Obama hampered his own ability to shut down Guantanamo. Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union stated, “President Obama has utterly failed the first test of his second term, even before Inauguration Day… [h]e has jeopardized his ability to close Guantanamo during his presidency.”

GUEST: Hector Aristizabal, Los Angeles based activist and a member of the Program for Torture Victims, also a torture survivor himself

Rape Culture Pervasive and Justice for Rape Victims Elusive

The brutal gang rape in Delhi, India of a 23 year old woman who died of her injuries continues to generate protests in India and internationally. With the permission of her family, Indian media recently revealed that her name was Jyoti Singh Pandey.

While US commentators report on the abysmal state of Indian women, American women also face extremely high rates of rape and sexual assault, and antiquated rape laws still remain on the books, making justice elusive for rape victims.

For example, in Los Angeles where this program is recorded, a three judge Appeals Court panel reversed a rape conviction after learning that the woman who was raped was not married. The judges cited a law put onto the books in 1872 which states that it is only rape if the rapist is pretending to be someone’s husband and tricks the woman into having sex. Therefore if the rape victim is unmarried, according to this antiquated law, sexual assaults against her are not considered rape.

While the use of this 19th century law to protect a rapist is shocking, California Attorney General Kamala Harris has just called it “arcane,” vowing to work with the state legislature to revise it.

Meanwhile, in the small town of Steubenville, Ohio there have been accusations of a cover up of a sexual assault as two star high school football players await trial for the alleged rape of a 16 year old girl this past August. While police waited 11 days to arrest the suspects, online blogger Alexandria Goddard started covering the case and the Hacktivist group Anonymous staged a protest after leaking documents and video pointing to more suspects. Yet, the county police chief has said that no other people will be charged.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 1 in 5 US women have been raped or have experienced an attempted rape. But these serious statistics have not moved House Republicans, who have refused to reauthorize the 1994 Violence Against Women Act or VAWA. That act would provide money to help fight domestic violence and sexual assault by upholding stiffer penalties for criminals as well as funding shelters and helping victims. Republicans refused reauthorization claiming that there were too many provisions allowed for Native American women, undocumented immigrants and LGBT people.

GUEST: Katie Buckland, Executive Director of the California Women’s Law Center. She was previously the domestic violence prosecutor for the City of Los Angeles.

Visit www.cwlc.org for more information about the California Women’s Law Center.

Scientists Find Strong Correlation Between Childhood Lead Exposure and Violent Crime

A report this week that crime in Los Angeles had dropped to a historic low for the tenth year in a row, has prompted the Los Angeles Police Department to take credit. While overall crime in the city dropped 1.5%, violent crime dropped 8.5%. The statistics are part of a growing trend nationwide and internationally and while law enforcement will cite increased numbers of cops on the street as explanation, many sociologists are scratching their heads. The conventional social wisdom on crime links crime rates to the economy – crimes are expected to increase as the economy worsens. Yet, current global and local trends defy such logic despite an on-going economic recession.

Now, a controversial correlation that could explain the historic rise and current fall in violent crime is gaining traction as scientists are refining studies of what drives violent crime. That correlation is the exposure of young children to lead and their tendency toward violent crime as adults. Writing for Mother Jones magazine, writer Kevin Drum questions the LAPD’s assertions, saying “violent crime in Los Angeles peaked more than 20 years ago, long before LA changed its policing tactics.” Drum published a wide ranging article this month entitled “America’s Real Criminal Element: Lead.”

Citing decades of scientific studies, Drum makes a compelling case that the phasing in and out of leaded gasoline in various countries, and American states, cities and even neighborhoods, correlates so strongly with the incidence of reported violent crime, that it is likely lead exposure drove the high crime rates of the 90s and that the phasing out of leaded gasoline 20 years ago now explains the drops in crime rates. If true, the implications are shocking.

Lead exposure is known to cause cerebral damage particularly in the developing brains of young children. It can also affect impulse control and those centers in the brain that control aggression.

Among the scientists whose work is cited in the Mother Jones article is Dr. Howard Mielke, a researcher at Tulane University in New Orleans, whose pioneering work on lead emissions exposure has found a strong correlation with violent crime. A 2012 collaborative project examined FBI crime statistics in the cities of Chicago, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, San
Diego, Atlanta, and New Orleans and found that trends in aerial lead emissions correlated strongly with crime statistics in those cities. Dr. Mielke has also conducted similar studies within the city of New Orleans that showed a striking correlation at the level of individual neighborhoods.

GUEST: Dr. Howard Mielke, research professor at Tulane University working on the state of urban environments

Click here to read Kevin Drum’s article in Mother Jones.

Sonali’s Subversive Thought for the Day

“We won’t have a society, if we destroy the environment.” — Margaret Mead

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