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Forgery, Fraud, and Foreclosures

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By Cyril Josh Barker, Special to the NNPA from The Amsterdam News –

Reports indicate that several lawsuits have been filed against big banks due to the mishandling of important lending documents. The mishap has resulted in the stopping of foreclosure proceedings and reviewing past evictions in 23 states.

Banks that are being targeted in the lawsuits include Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Ally Financial Inc., and GMAC Mortgage because of document verification issues, specifically, false signatures and documents. Tens of thousands of homeowners are being affected by the flaw.

Among the most common problem involves documents that were not verified before foreclosures could legally proceed. Several documents were signed by employees who said they didn’t verify important information. There are also questions about the notarization of documents.

Issues of forgery are also coming into play, as many documents contain different signatures in different versions.

Massachusetts, Illinois, Iowa and Florida are among the states that have stopped foreclosure proceedings. In Florida, a judge dismissed 61 foreclosure cases.

Data from RealtyTrac Inc. indicates that more than 95,300 homes were taken by lenders in the country in August, along with lenders issuing more than 338,000 foreclosure filings to homeowners. In a Princeton University study by Douglas Massey and Jacob Rugh, Blacks have suffered the most from foreclosures.

In Black neighborhoods across the America, there was an increase in foreclosures by 15,028. Blacks were more likely to be given subprime loans with high interest rates and hidden fees. The study also revealed that worse deals were given to Blacks with similar credit scores as Whites.

Blacks were found to be as likely as Whites to receive predatory treatment among lenders that did not go bankrupt.

According to Rep. Ed Towns, D-NY, New York is not one of the states that has stopped foreclosure proceedings because of the mishap. Several state attorney generals have asked lenders to freeze foreclosure proceedings in their states. Towns said New York will take the steps to do the same, if necessary.

“We are going to look at this issue from a commitment stand point,” the congressman told The Amsterdam News. “I’m not sure there is going to be a hearing, but there is a lot of interest. All these mistakes have been made by losing paperwork.”

Towns said that people have called his office in reference to the problem going on in other states, saying that the banks’ mistakes have put the economy into a deeper financial hole that is harder to dig out of.

“There’s no doubt it has made it worse,” he said. “I give credit to banks for correcting this. I can’t help thinking about those who have been foreclosed on. What recourse do they have? I’m hoping that others will follow through as we monitor and look at this.”

News Analysis: Understanding Black Attitudes Toward Homosexuality

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By George E. Curry, Special to the NNPA –

Are African-Americans less supportive of homosexuality than other racial and ethnic groups? The answer is an emphatic yes. But, the reasons have more to do with religion than race.

“While the U.S. is generally considered a highly religious nation, African-Americans are markedly more religious on a variety of measures than the U.S. population, including level of affiliation with religion, attendance at religious services, frequency of prayer and religion’s importance in life,” observes a report titled, A Religious Portrait of African-Americans by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

The report noted, “Nearly eight in ten African Americans (79%) say religion is very important in their lives, compared with 56% among U.S. adults. In fact, even a large majority (72%) of African-Americans who are unaffiliated with any particular faith say religion plays at least a somewhat important role in their lives, nearly half (45%) of unaffiliated African-Americans say religion is very important in their lives, roughly three times the percentage who says this among the religiously unaffiliated population overall (16%).”

And, African-Americans are more likely to act on their religious beliefs.

“More than half of AfricanAmericans (53%) report attending religious services at least once a week, more than three-in-four (76%) say they pray on at least a daily basis and nearly nine-in-ten (88%) indicate they are absolutely certain that God exists. On each of these measures, African- Americans stand out as the most religiously committed racial or ethnic group in the nation,” the report stated.

Among the most religiously committed, no group is more committed than African-American women. The report found that 84 percent of Black women say religion is very important to them and 59 percent say they attend religious services at least once a week.

Given African Americans’ close affiliation with the church, it should come as no surprise that most Blacks oppose homosexuality.

“Blacks are much more likely to think that homosexuality is morally wrong (64%) than Whites (48%) or Hispanics (43%),” according to a Pew poll last year on civil unions and gay marriage. Again, that should be placed within the larger context of religion.

“Overall, two-thirds of those who attend services at least weekly say homosexual behavior is morally wrong, compared with 43% of those who attend services monthly or yearly and 32% of those who seldom or never attend,” the report stated.

A survey released Wednesday that combines two recent polls by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life shows that 43 percent of the public favor same-sex marriage and 48 percent oppose it. The report, Gay Marriage Gains More Acceptance, represents the first time in the 15 years Pew has been polling that fewer than half of Americans oppose same-sex marriage.

“Blacks continue to oppose same-sex marriage by a wide margin,” the new report states. “In 2010, just 30% of non-Hispanic Blacks favor gay marriage while 59% are opposed. From 2008 to 2000, 28% of Blacks favored same-sex marriage and 62% were opposed.”

The number of African-Americans in favor of allowing gays to serve openly in the military has dropped from 57 percent in 1994 to 48 percent in 2010. During the same period, White support increased from 51 percent to 63 percent.

There are other variations as well, with younger and more educated people more likely to favor same-sex marriage than their older and less educated counterparts. Geography is a factor as well, with a majority of Southerners opposed to same-sex marriage, the Midwest and West were about evenly divided and the Northeast supported gay marriage by a margin of 49 percent to 41 percent.

The new study did not address civil unions, which would give unmarried gay and lesbian couples many of the rights now enjoyed by married heterosexual couples. A Pew poll last year revealed that Blacks support civil unions rather than gay marriages, with 43 percent of Black Protestants in favor of civil unions and 49 percent opposed. Overall, 57 percent of Americans favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into civil unions, up from 45 percent in 2003.

Interestingly, the poll on civil unions and gay marriage noted that 64 percent of Americans say gays and lesbians encounter a lot of discrimination, facing more discrimination than Muslims (58 percent), Latinos (52 percent), Blacks (49 percent) or women (37 percent).

Gregory B. Lewis of the Andrew Young School of Public Policy Studies at Georgia State University examined data from 31 public opinion polls conducted between 1973 and 2000, which involved nearly 7,000 Blacks and 43,000 Whites. In 2003, his analysis was published in Public Opinion Quarterly. Lewis concluded, “Despite their greater disapproval of homosexuality, African-American opinion on gay civil liberties and employment discrimination are quite similar to whites’ opinions, and African-Americans are more likely to support laws prohibiting anti-gay discrimination.”

Many African-Americans are influenced by the Bible and their religious leaders. Black preachers tend to address social issues such as school prayer, the death penalty, and homosexuality more than their White counterparts.

In one survey, nearly 50 percent of African-American churchgoers reported that their pastors regularly expressed negative viewpoints toward homosexuality. In one Baltimore study, 68 percent of the Black respondents said their pastor had preached that homosexuality was a sin or immoral.

Ministers point to various passages of the Bible to justify their stand against homosexuality, including Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9 and the most quoted Scripture on the subject, Leviticus 18:22, which reads, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”

In its 2009 report titled, At the Crossroads: African American Same Gender Loving Families and the Freedom to Marry, the National Black Justice Coalition, the nation’s only African-American gay civil rights organization, said: “The ‘homosexuality is a choice’ rhetoric is also preached by African-American ministers in their churches. Arguing that as a result gays are not entitled to certain rights and protections in the same way African-Americans are, creates a wedge between African-American and gay communities.”

To some, it is a wedge unlikely to disappear.

During a Freedom Weekend panel discussion earlier this year in Detroit, Anthony Samad, a scholar, social activist, and columnist, told supporters of gays and lesbians: “…What you’re asking African Americans to do is go against their belief system, which is the church. Most of them believe a marriage should be between a man and a woman. You’re asking them to choose between your cause and their church.”

Ethiopian Reporter Survives Jail to Receive Prize

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Dawit Kebede, one of the first journalists to be jailed for independent reporting on Ethiopia's 2005 election violence and among the last to be released under a presidential pardon nearly two years later will receive the International Press Freedom Award on Nov. 23 from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Other prizewinners are Nadira Isayeva of Russia, Laureano Márquez of Venezuela, and Mohammad Davari of Iran.

Unlike many of his colleagues who went into exile, Kebede chose to stay in Ethiopia after receiving his freedom from jail in Addis Ababa, where he had been crammed into a communal cell with 350 political prisoners.

In 2008, he was detained for an article titled “freedom of writing should be respected” in the Awramba Times. Today, it is the country's only Amharic-language newspaper that dares question authorities, notes CPJ.

"Here are three things people should know about me," the 30-year-old Kebede says. "First, it is impossible for me to live without the life I have as a journalist. Second, unless it becomes a question of life and death, I will never be leaving Ethiopia. Third, I am not an opposition. As a journalist, whatsoever would be a governing regime in Ethiopia, I will never hesitate from writing issues criticizing it for the betterment of the country.”

Africa Land Grab Confirmed in New World Bank Study

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

More than 100 million acres of fertile farm land in mostly poor countries was bought up by western multinationals and Asian state companies in secret deals, according to a new study by the World Bank.

The size of the “land grabs” represent a tenfold jump from the previous decade. Two-thirds of these controversial sales were in Africa.

“Large land acquisitions come at a high cost. The veil of secrecy that often surrounds these deals must be lifted,” said World Bank Managing Director, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who warned of a “resource curse” that may enrich a small group of the elite, but leaving wreckage behind. Proposals are not properly screened. Poor people who live off the land are forcibly displaced.

Some investors manipulate opinion with a media blitz of false promises. Nothing has been produced so far on almost 80 per cent of the land purchased, notes the report.

Two years ago, Korea’s Daiwoo Logistics attempted to “rent” over 2 million acres of farm land -approximately the size of Connecticut - for $2.50 an acre in Madagascar to plant food and biofuel for export. The 99-year deal set off a firestorm of opposition leading to the downfall of the then president. The lease was later revoked when the new president said: “Madagascar’s land is neither for sale nor for rent.”

The report, Rising Global Interest in Farmland, released last month, calls on developing countries to recognize and respect the resource rights of their people.

Jobs Remain Top Priority for One Nation Marchers

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By James Wright, Special to the NNPA from the Washington Informer –

Hundreds of thousands of people from across the country converged upon Washington, D.C., to participate in a rally to let the U.S. Congress and the White House know that job creation and fixing the ailing economy should be the number one priority.

The One Nation Working Together rally at the Lincoln Memorial was designed t o counter the Tea Party movement’s rally in Washington in August and to caution Americans that a Republican-controlled Congress would turn back the hands of time. Members from various progressive organizations and unions traveled by bus, train, airplane, and on foot to let national leaders in Washington know that political squabbling will do little to heal people's economic pain in the aftermath of one of the longest recessions since World War II.

"I came here to support the cause of the march," Derrick Griffin, 43, said. "Our leaders here in D.C. should be about saving jobs and trying to put forth the change we voted for in 2008," the Fort Washington, Md., resident said.

Event organizers estimated that 175,000 people gathered on a slightly breezy, but clear day to show a united front. They came from all walks of life and economic circumstances. Participants included the employed and unemployed, union workers and environmentalists, civil rights leaders and civic leaders, war veterans and peace activists, student leaders and those from the gay, lesbian, transgender community.

Speakers at the event included the Rev. Jesse Jackson of the Rainbow/Push Coalition, National Urban League President Marc Morial, NAACP President Benjamin Jealous, Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network – all of whom stressed the need for jobs and emphasized the urgency of the situation.

The crowd congregated on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and fanned out onto the grounds of the Washington Monument. There were throngs of people on both sides of the Reflecting Pool as well as those who hunkered down around the World War II Memorial.

Political and civil rights organizations set up tables that displayed their wares and various organizations passed out literature. Throughout the four-hour event, organizations joined in by marching around the grounds for their respective causes while others listened to the speakers.

Most of the marchers donned colored Tee-shirts that announced their cause or organization and sat together throughout the event. For example, members of the Communications Workers of America donned red Tee-shirts with white printed messages on both the front and back of their shirts. The group congregated on the south side of the Reflecting Pool.

The marchers may have been from different parts of the country, but the common thread among all who attended focused on their financial pain and the lack of jobs. Jeffrey Dunkin, 53, traveled from New York City to attend the march and to show support for fellow New Yorkers who are suffering in his home town. "I want to help people that have lost their jobs," said Dunkin, who lives in Brooklyn. "Things do not look good in New York City and I know a lot of unemployed people. I hope this march will help secure more jobs for the unemployed because things are not looking good."

Deborah Maxwell, president of the New Hanover County, N.C. NAACP, said she and about 20 others from her branch, primarily residents of Wilmington, traveled to Washington to call for more action from the federal government.

"It is important that we fight for jobs, justice, and education and that is why we decided to come from Wilmington to [Washington, D.C.]," said Maxwell, 54, and a resident of Wilmington. "Some of us have come at a sacrifice because [we] are still dealing with issues regarding the recent floods. Still, others are in distress because of job loss," said Maxwell, adding two of her members recently lost their jobs working for the local government and their job prospects are grim despite Wilmington's strong tourism economy.

Maxwell isn’t alone. Individuals from other states also feel the sting of the recession.

Harrisburg’s situation mirrors that of the District of Columbia in terms of firing teachers and school personnel. Harrisburg is the capital of the Keystone State and its 47,472 population is 54 percent Black. The Harrisburg school district consists of 8,401 students and approximately 1,200 faculty and staff.

Trea Buck, a high school science teacher in Harrisburg, said that 57 teachers have been laid off since the 2010-2011 school year started. "I am here for my fallen brethren. Our school system has had to undergo a lot of cuts," said Buck, 39, and a resident of Harrisburg. "Teachers who were emergency certified were cut and many of us will have to be furloughed at some point. Plus, our school system administration was cut in half," he said.

Buck joined a large group of National Education Association members at the Reflecting Pool during the rally. Buck said that she traveled to Washington to advocate not only for her fellow colleagues, but for the next generation. "What are we going to do for the children," she said, "How are these cuts going to support our future?"

A weak economy and a struggling school system have plagued Detroit for years. Members of the Metro Detroit Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta traveled to the District to voice their opinions during the rally.

"We came to show our support for President Obama and to stand up for jobs, justice, and education," Mardi Woods, president of the chapter, said. "We also have a get out the vote effort to make sure our voices are heard on Nov. 2."

Woods, 42, and a resident of Farmington Hills, Mich., outside of Detroit, said that the Motor City has been hit hard by a high rate of home foreclosures and job layoffs. She said that the layoffs, particularly in the school system, have adversely affected her members. "Many of our members are educators and Deltas are at the table when these things happen," she said.

The Detroit Public School system laid-off nearly 1,000 school personnel last August due to budgetary problems. However, the action was stopped when money was located due to retirements. The school system has 84,000 non-charter school students and about 15,000 administrators, faculty and staff. The entire school system has a total of 138,000 students enrolled in both public and charter schools.

Robert Bobb, who served as the city administrator of Washington, D.C. from 2002-2006 and was an unsuccessful candidate for the presidency of the D.C. Board of Education, is the current emergency financial director for Detroit Public Schools. Bobb was appointed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, D-MI, in 2009 to manage the school system's muddled finances. The massive layoffs were proposed by Bobb last spring because of declining enrollment and the costs of running the system.

Woods said she supports Bobb "because he is trying to do the right thing for the children of Detroit."

A number of youth groups also attended the rally. They contend that young people care about what is going on in the country. Leilani Irvin, a senior political science major at Benedict College in Columbia, S.C., said that young people have been particularly hurt by the struggling economy. "I know of many of my former school mates, who graduated in May, are still looking for jobs," Irvin, 21, said. "This is a crisis with youth. I read where 27 percent of college graduates cannot find a job and I don't think my employment prospects for the spring will be better."

There is a belief that the retired are not affected by the economic downturn, but Kenneth Davis, a retired autoworker from Detroit disagrees. "I came to this march because too many people are suffering," Davis, 54, said. "As a member of the United Auto Workers Union, those of us who receive retirement benefits had to give up our dental [coverage]. That is not right that we are giving up concessions to the auto companies while their profits are going up."

Davis said that he received an e-mail recently that said Chrysler's profits were up 65 percent from last year. He said that he knows of fellow retirees who are experiencing economic difficulties, such as foreclosures. At one time, they could get help from the union "but that is not possible now because everyone needs help," Davis said.

Many of the participants could not get close enough to the front of the Lincoln Memorial or even close enough to the four Jumbotrons to hear the speakers. Martina Beauford of Baltimore, Md., saw the crowds huddled near the front of the Lincoln Memorial from her bench close by the Washington Monument and decided to stay put. While she could not hear what was going on, she felt the vibe that was coming from the event. "I am here to make a statement on everything that is going on with people's pay, health benefits and lack of job security," Beauford, 42, said. "This is my first march and I like it because it is exciting and different."

Beauford, a Maryland Department of Corrections employee said she felt a connection with everyone at the rally. "We are all hurting," she said. "This is why it is important for all of us to come together because everyone in all 50 states is hurting."

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