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Jan 20 2013

What We Now Know

(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Up host Chris Hayes has what we know now since the week began. Joining him to discuss what they know are Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD)(@repdonnaedwards); Bill Fletcher (@BillFletcherJr), racial justice, labor and international activist; Ben Jealous (@BenJealous), president and CEO of the NAACP; and economist Dr. Julianne Malveaux (@drjlastword), president emeritus of Bennett College for Women.

Aaron Swartz Prosecutor Defends Charges, Days After Activist’s Suicide

by Ryan J. Reilly, Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz on Wednesday defended her office’s prosecution of Aaron Swartz as “appropriate,” days after the 26-year-old Internet activist took his own life.

Ortiz, the top federal prosecutor in Massachusetts, broke her silence for the first time since Swartz killed himself on Friday. His family and supporters have blamed the government for playing a role in his death, while members of Congress have questioned the Justice Department’s aggressive prosecution of Swartz on computer fraud charges.

But Ortiz maintained it was appropriate for prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts to bring the case. She said her office was prepared to offer a deal that would have put Swartz behind bars in a low-security prison for six months. Ortiz said prosecutors never said they intended to seek the maximum punishment.

Introducing ‘Aaron’s Law’

by Diane Sweet, Crooks and Liars

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced “Aaron’s Law” on Tuesday night, announcing it via the user-generated site Reddit. The piece of legislation would modify the the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to exclude terms of service violations. “There’s no way to reverse the tragedy of Aaron’s death, but we can work to prevent a repeat of the abuses of power he experienced,” Lofgren wrote. “The government was able to bring such disproportionate charges against Aaron because of the broad scope of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and the wire fraud statute.” Read the full bill here (pdf).

Residential Segregation Contributes to Health Disparities for People of Color

by Kenneth J. Cooper, America’s Wire

Segregated black neighborhoods tend to be poor-poorer, in fact, than impoverished white neighborhoods. Recent research, however, has begun to show that race, not class, adversely affects the health of African-Americans in racially isolated communities.

Hope Landrine, a researcher for the American Cancer Society, reviewed the latest studies on residential segregation and black health, and compiled the findings last year in the journal “Ethnicity & Health.” Among them:

 

  • Two to three times as many fast food outlets are located in segregated black neighborhoods than in white neighborhoods of comparable socioeconomic status, contributing to higher black consumption of fatty, salty meals and in turn widening racial disparities in obesity and diabetes.
  • Black neighborhoods contain two to three times fewer supermarkets than comparable white neighborhoods, creating the kind of “food deserts” that make it difficult for residents who depend on public transportation to purchase the fresh fruits and vegetables that make for a healthy diet.
  • Fewer African-Americans have ready access to places to work off excess weight that can gradually cause death. A study limited to New York, Maryland and North Carolina found that black neighborhoods were three times more likely to lack recreational facilities where residents could exercise and relieve stress.
  • Because of “the deliberate placement of polluting factories and toxic waste dumps in minority neighborhoods,” exposure to air pollutants and toxins is five to 20 times higher than in white neighborhoods with the same income levels.
  • Regardless of their socioeconomic status, African-Americans who live in segregated communities receive unequal medical care because hospitals serving them have less technology, such as imaging equipment, and fewer specialists, like those in heart surgery and cancer. The predominantly white doctors in those communities are also less likely to have certification from the American Board of Medical Specialties, an accepted standard of professional competence.

Foreclosure Review In New Settlement Leaves Homeowners In Banks’ Hands

by Ben Hallman and Eleazar David Melendez, Huffington Post

For more than a year, housing advocates and their allies worried that a review of foreclosed loans managed by banking regulators was vulnerable to mortgage industry interference.

On Monday, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve Board — the two regulatory bodies that had taken the lead in making the nation’s largest banks accountable for rampant foreclosure fraud — announced that homeowners no longer need worry about the independence of the reviews. The regulators, essentially admitting that the reviews were too difficult to conduct, and that assigning appropriate compensation to those most harmed by the banks was no longer a priority, said the mortgage companies themselves will determine how to distribute $3.3 billion to more than 4 million homeowners forced into foreclosure in 2009 or 2010.

Housing advocates, while acknowledging that the foreclosure reviews were flawed, said they don’t understand how turning the process over to mortgage companies improves a system already insufficiently independent.

Foreclosure Review Insiders Portray Massive Failure, Doomed From The Start

by Ben Hallman and Eleazar David Melendez, Huffington Post

Last January, dozens of independent contractors showed up for their first day of work at a large, single-story Bank of America building in Tampa to right the wrongs of a foreclosure crisis that many had witnessed firsthand. Or so they thought.

They were lawyers, paralegals and other mortgage industry veterans. Along with thousands of other contractors working at banks and auditing firms like Deloitte and PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the Tampa crew was to comb through the mortgages of people whose homes were in foreclosure at the height of that crisis, in 2009 and 2010. They were looking for lost paperwork, overcharges, botched loan modifications — evidence of the kinds of errors and misconduct widely alleged by foreclosed borrowers.

It was called the Independent Foreclosure Review, and it was one of the most ambitious and costly auditing projects in U.S. history.

It was also, some of the contractors soon came to believe, a fiasco in the making. At Bank of America, contract employees were to answer more than 2,000 questions written by Promontory Financial, the consulting firm the bank hired to audit its mortgage loan files. Those questions, the contractors said, were confusing and open to interpretation. Training was spotty and mistakes were frequent, they said. Sometimes, when they noted bank-caused mistakes, they were told by Bank of America managers not to believe their own eyes.

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