The nation’s biggest banks wrongfully foreclosed on more than 700 military members during the housing crisis and seized homes from roughly two dozen other borrowers who were current on their mortgage payments, findings that eclipse earlier estimates of the improper evictions.
Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo uncovered the foreclosures while analyzing mortgages as part of a multibillion-dollar settlement deal with federal authorities, according to people with direct knowledge of the findings. In January, regulators ordered the banks to identify military members and other borrowers who were evicted in violation of federal law.
The analysis, which was turned over to regulators in recent days, provides the first detailed glimpse into the extent of wrongful foreclosures amid the collapse of the housing market. While lenders previously acknowledged that they relied on faulty documents to push through foreclosures, the banks claimed borrowers were rarely evicted by mistake, including military personnel protected by federal law.
“It’s absolutely devastating to be 7,000 miles from your home fighting for this country and get a message that your family is being evicted," says a retired Air Force lawyer who represents troops in foreclosure cases. "We have been sounding the alarms that the banks are illegally evicting the very men and women who are out there fighting for this country. This is a devastating confirmation of that." The big banks say the wrongful foreclosures are only a small fraction of the mortgages being reviewed and they plan to compensate those affected.
Obama, in a letter to congressional leaders, said the last 40 of the approximately 100 military personnel had arrived in Niger on Wednesday and were "deployed with weapons for the purpose of providing their own force protection and security."
"This deployment will provide support for intelligence collection and will also facilitate intelligence sharing with French forces conducting operations in Mali, and with other partners in the region," the president said.
The United States and Niger signed a Status of Forces Agreement last month that governs the presence of American troops in the country, paving the way for sending unarmed drones and military personnel.
A Pentagon official said U.S. Africa Command, which handles military ties with Africa, had sent the unmanned planes to Niger "to support a range of regional security missions and engagements with partner nations."
The U.S. already has drones and surveillance aircraft stationed at several points around Africa. Niger granted permission for U.S. drones "to be stationed on its territory to improve intelligence on al Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters in northern Mali and the wider Sahara, a senior Niger government source said in January."
President Obama delivered his weekly address on Saturday after meeting with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, updating the American people on “how we will end this war, bring our troops home, and continue the work of rebuilding America.” Afghan troops would take the lead on security across the country this spring as American forces shift to a supporting role. “And by the end of the year, America’s war in Afghanistan will be over,” he said, thanking the service members and diplomats for their sacrifices. With a focus on advancing the economy and fixing infrastructure and immigration, President Obama acknowledged that “after more than a decade of war, the nation we need to rebuild is our own.”
Hi, everybody. This week, I welcomed President Hamid Karzai to the White House to discuss the way ahead in Afghanistan. And today, I want to update you on how we will end this war, bring our troops home, and continue the work of rebuilding America.
Over the past four years, thanks to our brave men and women in uniform, we’ve dealt devastating blows to al Qaeda. We’ve pushed the Taliban out of their strongholds. And our core objective – the reason we went to war in the first place – is now within reach: ensuring that al Qaeda can never again use Afghanistan to launch attacks against America.
The 33,000 additional forces that I ordered to Afghanistan served with honor, completed their mission, and – as promised – returned home last fall. This week, we agreed that this spring, Afghan forces will take the lead for security across the entire country, and our troops will shift to a support role. In the coming months, I’ll announce the next phase of our drawdown. And by the end of next year, America’s war in Afghanistan will be over.
This progress has only been possible because of the heroic sacrifices of our troops and diplomats, alongside forces from many other nations. More than a half million Americans – military and civilian – have served in Afghanistan. Thousands have been wounded. More than 2,000 have given their lives.
This remains a very difficult mission. The work ahead will not be easy. Our forces are still in harm’s way. But make no mistake – our path is clear, and we are moving forward. Because after more than a decade of war, the nation we need to rebuild is our own.
As we do, we have to care for our troops and veterans who fought in our name. We have to grow our economy and shrink our deficits. Create new jobs and boost family incomes. We have to fix our infrastructure and our immigration system. We have to protect our planet from the destructive effects of climate change – and protect our children from the horrors of gun violence.
These, too, will be difficult missions for America. But they must be met. And if we can summon just a fraction of the determination of our men and women in uniform, I know we can meet them. And I intend to work as hard as I know how to make sure we do.
Guest Post by Jim Messina, Campaign Manager, Obama for America
For this video, we asked people to compare Mitt Romney's real positions with the ones he's claimed to support in the final weeks of the campaign.
We know Mitt Romney will say anything to win, even if it’s not true – just like he did in Massachusetts and in the first debate. The real Mitt Romney has been running on his “severely conservative” positions for years, but now – just weeks before Election Day – he’s trying to hide them because they’ll hurt the middle class and his chances of winning.
We saw this clearly in the first presidential debate on Oct. 3, as Governor Romney cynically and dishonestly hid the self-described “severely conservative” positions he’s been running on – and there’s no doubt he’s memorizing more deceptions as he prepares for Tuesday’s second debate.
On Tuesday, Romney will be asked some simple questions by Americans from diverse backgrounds about how his plans will impact their lives. So we’ve provided some simple translations to help voters – and the media – interpret the deceptive answers he’s most likely to give in return.
Question #1: What’s your tax plan and what will it mean for middle-class families?
What he’ll say: “I will not, under any circumstances, raise taxes on middle-income families.” – Mitt Romney, Denver Presidential Debate, 10/3/12
Translation: As part of his tax plan, Romney has proposed $5 trillion in specific tax cuts. As independent, non-partisan analysts have highlighted, to pay for his plan, Mitt Romney has promised $1 trillion more in tax cuts for the rich than there are tax benefits to close. As a result, he would have to cut popular tax deductions that middle class families rely on, like the mortgage interest and charitable deductions, to pay for $250,000 tax cuts to multi-millionaires. Paying for Romney’s tax cuts would mean the average middle class family with kids would see their taxes go up by $2,000 a year.
Reality under President Obama: The typical middle class family has seen their taxes cut by $3,600 by President Obama over the course of his first term, and he has a detailed plan that would keep income taxes low for 98% of families and 97% of small businesses, while asking the wealthiest to pay their fair share to help create an economy built to last.
Question #2: What about that $5 trillion tax cut skewed toward the wealthiest I’ve heard about?
What he’ll say: “First of all, I don't have a $5 trillion tax cut…I’m not going to reduce the share of taxes paid by high-income people.” – Mitt Romney, Denver Presidential Debate, 10/3/12
Translation: Mitt Romney has detailed a specific tax plan that provides $5 trillion in tax cuts weighted towards millionaires and billionaires – a combination of a 20 percent cut in individual income taxes, eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax, repealing the estate tax and the high-income Medicare tax, and cutting taxes for corporations by $1.1 trillion. That math is clear, but when it comes to paying for these tax cuts, Romney hasn’t specified a single loophole he’d close. Even if he eliminated every deduction for high-income taxpayers and enough loopholes to pay for his corporate tax cut, he’d still need to increase middle class taxes by $1 trillion to pay for his plan.
Reality under President Obama: President Obama has already signed $1 trillion in spending cuts as part of a balanced plan to reduce the deficit by more than $4 trillion, while maintaining critical investments in innovation, education, and infrastructure needed to create jobs now and grow our economy in the coming decades.
Question #3: So how can you claim your tax cuts won’t result in more taxes for the middle class?
What he’ll say: “Six studies have guaranteed…that this math adds up…even their own deputy campaign manager acknowledged that it wasn't correct.” – Paul Ryan, Vice Presidential Debate, 10/11/12
Translation: While Romney will cite “studies” to back up his wild suggestion that he won’t raise taxes on middle-class families, independent fact checkers and journalists have noted time and time again, those so-called “studies” are actually partisan op-eds, blog posts and analyses by conservative think tanks. None have disputed the total cost of his plan or the fact that it is a large tax cut for those at the top – so none prove that he can pay for his tax plan without raising middle-class taxes. He’s trying to take statements out of context to get around the truth: he’s proposed $5 trillion in specific tax cuts, and even if he closes every deduction for the wealthy, he’ll still fall $1 trillion short. That means he has to either raise taxes on middle-class families or explode the deficit.
Monday marked Iraq’s bloodiest day so far this year, as 107 people died from bombings and shootings, in a coordinated surge of violence against mostly Shi'ite Muslim targets. Just a few days prior, the leader of the country’s al Qaeda faction declared a new offensive in an attempt to take advantage of the disorganized Baghdad government U.S. troops are leaving behind. Monday’s violence suggests al Qaeda is much more powerful than U.S. and Iraqi officials admit. Security forces and government offices were the two most common targets of the day’s attacks. The worst part of the offensive took place in an town 12 miles north of Baghdad, where 41 people were killed after bombs exploded around five houses and the police who arrived to help were attacked by a suicide bomber.
Not that we needed to hear yet another reason to bring troops home from Afghanistan now, but new statistics on heroin use and soldier deaths involving heroin reported by the Army are indeed more reasons to /war now:
* Eight U.S. soldiers died of overdoses involving heroin, morphine or other opiates in 2010-11. The totals for the two years are double the number that the DoD reported as drug-related deaths in Afghanistan for the last decade. [Emphasis mine.]
* 56 soldiers, including the eight, were investigated for using, possessing or selling the drugs. However, broader drug use statistics released by the Army earlier this year reporting nearly 70,000 drug offenses by roughly 36,000 soldiers between 2006-11. The number increased from about 9,400 in 2010 to about 11,200 in 2011.
* The Taliban are believed to be stockpiling opium to finance their activities, U.N. reported. Afghanistan's poppy fields now provide up to 90 percent of the world’s opium.
In one overdose case, a member of the Kentucky National Guard was found dead of “acute heroin toxicity” at his Afghanistan base after a soldier, also in the Kentucky Guard, bought heroin from a civilian contractor and used it with him. [Emphasis mine.]The report found that he also had morphine and codeine in his system.
I suppose the heroin-dealing civilian contractor had immunity from prosecution for that, too.
Others more often involved soldiers who were found dead and were later determined to have taken a mix of prescription and other opiate drugs.
The nonlethal cases range from a soldier failing a random drug test to more organized abuse.
In one case, seven members of the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, were found to have smoked hashish and/or ingested heroin numerous times, including some bought from members of the Afghan army and police. The investigation found that one other brigade soldier acted as a lookout while others used the drugs.
Army officials also say that "CID has quarterly drug statistics that show that drug use by troops in Afghanistan is not greater than that of troops in installations back in the United States and there is less of a variance in drugs used by troops in Afghanistan."
I'd like to see those statistics, because I hope that the Army is not putting stats for pot smoking by troops in the same category as heroin use. That would be ridiculous. But, we are talking about the military, so...