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Feed aggregator
prwatch: RT @ALECexposed: Capital Times: " #ALEC should be required to
register as a lobbyist" http://t.co/DSym7SRT #ALECexposed

PR Watch on Twitter - February 17, 2012 - 5:37pm
prwatch: RT @ALECexposed: Capital Times: " #ALEC should be required to register as a
lobbyist" http://t.co/DSym7SRT #ALECexposed



prwatch: RT @ALECexposed: “The legislation wasn’t being written by anybody
in Wisconsin,” said Sen. Vinehout. http://t.co/vZ8yFyfH #ALEC #ALECexp ...

PR Watch on Twitter - February 17, 2012 - 5:37pm
prwatch: RT @ALECexposed: “The legislation wasn’t being written by anybody in
Wisconsin,” said Sen. Vinehout. http://t.co/vZ8yFyfH #ALEC #ALECexp ...

prwatch: RT @NaomiAKlein: Now that we know Microsoft donates to
Heartland and ALEC, r liberals going to stop pretending Bill Gates is a benevolen
...

PR Watch on Twitter - February 17, 2012 - 5:37pm
prwatch: RT @NaomiAKlein: Now that we know Microsoft donates to Heartland and
ALEC, r liberals going to stop pretending Bill Gates is a benevolen ...

Why We Love The Political Gabfest

CJR Daily - February 17, 2012 - 3:24pm
It was a little before five last Wednesday evening when the “tall Mormon” walked into
Antarctica, a bar in lower Manhattan (“where the drinks are big and the memories are
short”). “Oh, you’re the tall guy,” David Plotz, Slate magazine’s editor, said to him. “Our
tall Mormon.” The tall Mormon had had apparently spoken to Plotz earlier and
promised...
Categories: Media

Anthony Shadid: ‘A Gatherer, An Observer, A Listener’

CJR Daily - February 17, 2012 - 2:37pm
For many readers and listeners of the news, the work of foreign correspondents is
surrounded by legend and yet strangely taken for granted. Each day, on television and
the radio, in newspapers and magazines and online, we see the correspondents
standing in the dust of the latest bomb blast, or dodging bullets in an orchard, or
navigating a natural disaster....
Categories: Media

prwatch: RT @VotingMatters: Challenges to Wisconsin Recall Resemble Tea
Party "Voter Caging" Scheme - @prwatch http://t.co/spcr5gZz
PR Watch on Twitter - February 17, 2012 - 2:24pm
prwatch: RT @VotingMatters: Challenges to Wisconsin Recall Resemble Tea Party
"Voter Caging" Scheme - @prwatch http://t.co/spcr5gZz

The WSJ Exposes Google's Tracking Hack

CJR Daily - February 17, 2012 - 12:40pm
The Wall Street Journal has a big scoop this morning on how Google and other
companies overrode Apple privacy settings in order aid their products and ads, a move
that also allowed third-party advertisers to track users on the Web. Julia Angwin and
Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, continuing the paper's What They Know series, report that
Google designed code to "trick"...
Categories: Media

The Best, Most Revealing Reporting on the Foreclosure Crisis

Pro Publica - February 17, 2012 - 12:24pm

by Blair Hickman

The housing crisis in the U.S. has been going on nearly five years, with still regular
revelations about misdeeds by banks and others. Here’s our roundup of standout
reporting on the crisis.



Lucrative fees may deter efforts to alter loans, The New York Times, July 2009

Banks and other mortgage servicers have made big bucks on the fees associated with
delinquent loans, because of rules that one Federal Reserve Bank of Boston paper
called a “perverse incentive to foreclose rather than modify.” This piece surveys the
homeowners caught in purgatory – and why the servicers seemed to want to keep them
there.

Fannie and Freddie’s foreclosure barons, Mother Jones, August 2010

One of the first stories to shed light on a “foreclosure mill.” A Florida law firm tore
through cases as quickly as possible, while frequently signing off on dodgy documents.
The firm has since been shut down.



Grave errors as undead rework loans, The Wall Street Journal, July 2010


Homeowner Sarah Larson, a 33-year-old acupuncturist, tried to get a break on her
$1,055-a-month mortgage from Bank of America. The bank requested three important
documents: bank statements, a utility bill and her death certificate. She replied: “I am
not sending a death certificate because I am not deceased. I am currently still living."
Mortgage mess: Shredding the dream, Businessweek, October 2010
How banks’ carelessness and underinvestment in back-end infrastructure contributed
to paperwork errors and lost promissory notes that many argue worsened the housing
crisis.

Ties to insurers could land mortgage servicers in more trouble, American
Banker, November 2010


Here’s another way that mortgage servicers have profited from struggling homeowners:
by forcing them to pay for expensive and unnecessary insurance policies.

The next housing shock, CBS' "60 Minutes," April 2011

This piece investigates the prevalence of “robo-signing,” focusing on one
company where a number of employees signed one woman’s name to
thousands of documents because her name was short. None of the major
banks agreed to talk to "60 Minutes."

Obama’s efforts to aid homeowners, boost housing market fall far short of
goals, The Washington Post, October 2011


This in-depth, inside look shows the internal debate behind the Obama administration’s
stumbling efforts to deal with the worst housing crisis since the Great Depression.

Raging against the foreclosure machine, iWatch News, The Center for Public
Integrity, January 2012

From the beginning of the foreclosure mess, struggling homeowners often defaulted
due to accounting and paperwork errors by the mortgage servicing industry. Servicers
claimed they’d addressed the systemic problem. But as this piece shows, the “veterans
of the foreclosure wars” tell a very different story.



A mortgage tornado warning, unheeded, The New York Times, February 2012


Years before the crisis, a wealthy Florida businessman, who had lost his home in a
questionable foreclosure, unearthed and compiled a “dossier of improprieties" on
Fannie Mae. In retrospect, it looks like a blueprint for today’s crisis — and raises several
questions about how deep and how far back our mortgage problems go.


We at ProPublica also have long been digging into the administration’s stumbling
efforts and how Wall Street machinations ultimately super-charged the crisis.
If you have other great foreclosure reporting, email us at
MuckReads@ProPublica.org or tweet it with the hashtag #muckreads.

Categories: Media, Politics



prwatch: RT @jeremyscahill: For generations to come, young journalists will
study Anthony Shadid & say, "I want to do what he did w the time he had"

PR Watch on Twitter - February 17, 2012 - 11:16am
prwatch: RT @jeremyscahill: For generations to come, young journalists will study
Anthony Shadid & say, "I want to do what he did w the time he had"

prwatch: RT @ConorKenny: .@atrios @prwatch Syran flack told Asad
Americans "easily manipulated when told mistakes were made now we're
fixing it" ...

PR Watch on Twitter - February 17, 2012 - 10:27am
prwatch: RT @ConorKenny: .@atrios @prwatch Syran flack told Asad Americans "easily
manipulated when told mistakes were made now we're fixing it" ...

prwatch: RT @chrislhayes: Via @KagroX, this is classic: http://t.co/QbC27tFU
#local1848forever!

PR Watch on Twitter - February 17, 2012 - 9:59am
prwatch: RT @chrislhayes: Via @KagroX, this is classic: http://t.co/QbC27tFU
#local1848forever!



prwatch: RT @paulsmith: The President’s also been seen with a shadowy local
“2012” RT @chrislhayes: this is classic: http://t.co/ackcp20P #local1 ...

PR Watch on Twitter - February 17, 2012 - 9:59am
prwatch: RT @paulsmith: The President’s also been seen with a shadowy local “2012”
RT @chrislhayes: this is classic: http://t.co/ackcp20P #local1 ...



prwatch: RT @whowhatwhy: How a chemical company investigated a journalist
who asked questions: http://t.co/RD03bZxf #media #journalism #pr

PR Watch on Twitter - February 17, 2012 - 9:55am
prwatch: RT @whowhatwhy: How a chemical company investigated a journalist who
asked questions: http://t.co/RD03bZxf #media #journalism #pr
prwatch: RT @WiscJobsNow: Outstanding article about Americans for
Prosperity in WI and their "shilling for Walker" campaign http://t.co/lQu9EZQb

PR Watch on Twitter - February 17, 2012 - 9:54am
prwatch: RT @WiscJobsNow: Outstanding article about Americans for Prosperity in WI
and their "shilling for Walker" campaign http://t.co/lQu9EZQb

Anthony Shadid: What He Knew

CJR Daily - February 16, 2012 - 11:26pm
The foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid of The New York Times, has died of an
apparent asthma attack while covering the Syrian uprising. He was just 43. In our
November/December issue, Terry McDermott interviewed him about his experiences
covering the war in Iraq. Here is Shadid, whom McDermott noted was "the most
honored foreign correspondent of his generation," in his...
Categories: Media

prwatch: Fitzgerald challenges to #WIrecall resemble #TeaParty vote caging
plot http://t.co/bdPmAldn #weareWI

PR Watch on Twitter - February 16, 2012 - 8:31pm
prwatch: Fitzgerald challenges to #WIrecall resemble #TeaParty vote caging plot
http://t.co/bdPmAldn #weareWI

Audit Notes: WSJ and FCPA, Apple Access, The Times Paywall

CJR Daily - February 16, 2012 - 8:19pm
The Wall Street Journal editorial page comes out swinging against the Justice
Department's "latest prosecutorial attack on business" via the Foreign Corrupt Practices
Act, which prohibits American companies from bribing foreign countries. The Journal,
naturally, is unhappy that corporations are getting big fines for corrupt practices: a total
of $2.3 billion in the last two years, it reports. But...
Categories: Media

How Citibank Dumped Lousy Mortgages on the Government

Pro Publica - February 16, 2012 - 4:34pm

by Cora Currier

.DC-note-container {margin-bottom: 12px;}
Citigroup agreed yesterday to pay $158 million to settle a lawsuit over bad
loans that the bank passed on to the Federal Housing Administration to insure.
The whistle-blower who originally brought the case, Sherry Hunt, an employee
of Citi's mortgage department, said the company actively undermined the
process that was supposed to check for fraud in order to push through reckless
loans and get higher profits.

The suit itself makes for good reading. We've pulled out the juiciest bits, and
explain just what Citi appears to have been doing.


Some background: The FHA insures one-third of the mortgages loans in the
country, taking on the risk of homeowners' default from lenders like Citi. The
government requires lenders to certify that insured loans meet FHA standards.

Citi appears to have flouted those standards. According to the lawsuit, the bank passed
along subpar loans to the FHA until very recently, making "substantial profits through
the sale and/or securitization of FHA-backed insured mortgages" while "it wrongfully
endorsed mortgages that were not eligible."


In the settlement, Citi, which was bailed out by taxpayers in 2008 to the tune of $45
billion, "admits, acknowledges, and accepts responsibility" for passing on bad loans.

The suit's allegations

Citi was passing on mortgages with particularly high rates of default to the FHA, costing
taxpayers millions in insurance claims:


dc.embed.loadNote('http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/293149/annotations/
45156.js');

The quality control unit in charge of reviewing the mortgages had "marching orders" to
pass questionable loans by "brute force":


dc.embed.loadNote('http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/293149/annotations/
45155.js');

The company started basing compensation for some employees on how many loans got
through quality control, intensifying the pressure:


dc.embed.loadNote('http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/293149/annotations/
45157.js');
In January 2011, Citi gave awards to employees who had successfully
challenged quality control ratings. In a detailed Bloomberg News story, the
whistle-blower, Hunt, said that at the awards ceremony, quality control
workers "were humiliated in front of everyone":


dc.embed.loadNote('http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/293149/annotations/
45152.js');

Lenders are supposed to self-report to the government when they discover fraudulent
or shoddy loans. But Citi almost never did:


dc.embed.loadNote('http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/293149/annotations/
45153.js');

At one point, Citi erased the records of nearly 1,000 potentially fraudulent loans:


dc.embed.loadNote('http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/293149/annotations/
45154.js');

Citi's settlement

The company admits to passing on loans that were "not eligible" for government
guarantees:


dc.embed.loadNote('http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/293150/annotations/
45146.js');

Citi has to pay $158.3 million within 30 days. Of that sum, $30 million will go to the
whistle-blower. The suit was filed under the False Claims Act, which rewards whistle-
blowers who bring cases resulting in settlements in which it was alleged that the
government was defrauded:


dc.embed.loadNote('http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/293150/annotations/
45147.js');

The government has reserved the right to pursue criminal charges:


dc.embed.loadNote('http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/293150/annotations/
45148.js');
A spokesman for Citigroup said in an emailed statement: "We take our quality
assurance processes seriously and have pro-actively undertaken process improvements
to ensure that they are as robust as possible. Our government-related business is very
important to us, and we will continue as a participant in the FHA's Direct Endorsement
Lender Program with the full support of HUD."

Citi isn't the only bank facing these kinds of allegations — as part of last week's
mortgage settlement, Bank of America will pay the FHA up to $1 billion for fraud and
abusive foreclosure practices.

Categories: Media, Politics

Blodget Asks a Taboo Question on Wages and Profits

CJR Daily - February 16, 2012 - 3:08pm
I like this Henry Blodget thought experiment on how much more major companies
could afford to compensate their ill-paid employees. It shows pretty clearly just how
much shareholders and executives benefit at the expense of the workers who make
their profits possible. First, consider the macro context: Something has definitely
changed in how workers are paid and how...
Categories: Media


Federal Rules to Disclose Fracking Chemicals Could Come with Exceptions

Pro Publica - February 16, 2012 - 2:44pm

by Lena Groeger


Last week several media outlets obtained the federal Bureau of Land Management's
draft of proposed rules requiring fracking companies to disclose the chemicals they
pump into the ground. Such disclosure requirements have been championed by
environmentalists for years and were endorsed by President Obama in the State of the
Union, but critics say the rules may not go far enough.

In the process of fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, millions of gallons of highly
pressurized water, mixed with sand and other chemicals, are injected into the ground to
extract natural gas from rock. As we've noted before, some of these chemicals are toxic
to humans and have contaminated nearby groundwater. Some energy companies have
voluntarily made their chemical information public, but others have fought to keep
them secret.
InsideClimate notes that the proposed national rules would specifically require
companies to give both the names and concentrations of individual chemicals used. So
far, Colorado is the only state that requires such detailed information for all chemicals;
eight other states with fracking disclosure rules either do not require companies to
report concentrations or only require them to report concentrations of hazardous
materials. The BLM's rules also would compel companies to report the total volume of
fracking fluid used, as well as how they intend to recover and dispose of it.

Though the BLM's proposed rules are more stringent than most state laws,
environmental and health advocates say drillers could circumvent some of the
requirements. For instance, the rules would only apply to drilling on federal lands. Also,
companies could request that certain chemicals be exempted from disclosure if they are
deemed a "trade secret." The trade secret exemptions "could potentially make the rules
meaningless if applied broadly," Dusty Horwitt, senior counsel at a public health
advocacy group told InsideClimate.


While the BLM's proposal states that all the non-exempted information would "become
a matter of public record," it makes no mention of how or where the disclosure
information would appear -- or how it would be made available to the public.

To compare the BLM's draft rules with state disclosure provisions, take a look at the
table here (which we've recreated from a chart by InsideClimate). You can also read the
full draft legislation here.

Categories: Media, Politics

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Who's in charge of America?

Lisa Graves on Randi Rhodes Show

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Recall Petition Delivery, Madison, Wisconsin, 1-
17-2012
Center for Media and Democracy • 520 University Avenue, Suite 260 • Madison,
Wisconsin 53703
Phone: 608-260-9713 • Fax: 608-260-9714

				
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