Fraud and foreclosure, life in a ‘man camp,’ dying in Duluth, reporters white with foam, and the problem with kids being kids.
1) FRAUD AND FORECLOSURE
There’s no telling how many people have been thrown out of their homes in foreclosure proceedings based on phony documents the banks created out of thin air to show they held the mortgages. It’s one of the great scandals of the century — given how the foreclosure crisis helped the economy tumble to what it is today — and one politicians, the regulators, and just about anyone else involved can’t seem to give a rip about.
That much is clear from an article in American Banker that says nearly a full year after the scandal first surfaced, banks — including Wells Fargo — are still doing it.
According to a document submitted in a Florida court by Bank of America Corp., bank assistant vice president Sandra Juarez signed a mortgage assignment on July 29 of this year that purported to transfer ownership of a mortgage from New Century Mortgage Corp. to a trustee, Deutsche Bank. Two problems with that: New Century, a subprime lender, went bankrupt in 2007; and the Deutsche Bank trust that purported to hold the loan was created for a securitization completed in 2006 — about five years before Juarez signed it over to the trust. (Bank of America, as the servicer of the loan, was seeking to foreclose on behalf of the trust and its bondholders.)
How is that banks can get away with this? Moreover, how is it that if journalists can figure this all out, prosecutors and people who are paid to oversee the banks can’t?
Here’s a 60 Minutes piece describing the fraud that aired last spring…
2) A VISIT TO “MAN CAMP”
How desperate do you have to be to live in “man camp?”
Like many people, a young man from Minnesota is striking it rich in the oil fields of North Dakota, the Associated Press reports today…
His degree is in recreation and leisure management. When he was in school, he was a Walmart cashier and also delivered pizzas.
Now he makes six-figures working on an oil rig, 80 hours a week. He figures this time, with more experience and plenty of overtime, he’ll take home $4,000 to $5,000 a week.
“I’ve paid off college and my car. I blew a lot of it, too,” he says, detailing some of those purchases – $4,000 worth of snowboarding equipment, $5,000 worth of clothes, a $3,000 mountain bike. …
The trade-off? He has to live in North Dakota. The middle of nowhere. “Man camp.” It’s a camp with cramped quarters, no amenities, and few women. Many of those looking for work show up with the trappings of a once-better life, and the realization that people who have houses in the area are charging a fortune for a room. So they had to build “man camp.”
To the average person, though, the rooms at this camp would probably seem more like a dorm, or Army barracks – solid enough, with heat, air-conditioning and indoor plumbing. But they’re also basic and tight on space, often equipped with a single bed, a small desk, a TV with cable and a DVD player, and a “Jack-and-Jill” bathroom, shared with a next-door neighbor. If that neighbor visited, someone would have to sit on the bed. There’s only room for one small chair. The smell of plastic (a main component in the walls of these temporary structures) and pesticide (mice and insects are problems out here on the prairie) also can be a little overwhelming.
To the average person, though, the rooms at this camp would probably seem more like a dorm, or Army barracks – solid enough, with heat, air-conditioning and indoor plumbing.
But they’re also basic and tight on space, often equipped with a single bed, a small desk, a TV with cable and a DVD player, and a “Jack-and-Jill” bathroom, shared with a next-door neighbor. If that neighbor visited, someone would have to sit on the bed. There’s only room for one small chair.
The smell of plastic (a main component in the walls of these temporary structures) and pesticide (mice and insects are problems out here on the prairie) also can be a little overwhelming.
Despite the desperation for work, many can’t stand the isolation.
Are there better ways to get rich? Maybe. Buy a parking spot in a big city, the Wall St. Journal says. “The beauty of it is, as [apartment] prices came down, parking went up,” a real estate broker says. In Toronto, a parking spot is going for as much as $100,000.
But back to North Dakota, for a second. Nate Silver, of fivethirtyeight, says if the economy is so good there — and it is — shouldn’t President Obama’s approval rating be higher there? It’s not. And he’s found there’s little correlation between a state’s economic performance, and a president’s job approval rating in a state.
3) DYING IN DULUTH
If you live in northeast Minnesota, you’re twice as likely to take your own life as people in other parts of the state, new data from the state shows. Reported in the Duluth News Tribune, the data show you’re also twice as likely to have a damaged liver and more likely to die from heart disease.
“You live in God’s country up there, and you pay a price for it,” said Jon Roesler, a state Health Department epidemiologist. “I mean, we all want to live there, but then you look at these health-outcome numbers, and you go — whoa.”
A less educated population and less access to health care are given as reason for the surprising statistics.
Outside of Duluth, in the Northeast, how many psychiatrists are there?” he asked. “Probably not very many. The economics of delivering specialized care is pretty tough.”
One resident of northeast Minnesota suggested on MPR’s Ground Level blog (which has a link to the full report and assesses the problem in other parts of the state, too) that the high poverty rate in the area leads to ineffective care when people do have access to it.
“Nothing serious ever gets diagnosed here we are sent elsewhere and can’t afford to travel for medical care,” she said.
4) REPORTERS WHITE WITH FOAM
Remember this bit last weekend when an unsuspecting reporter was awash in sewage?
It turns out, it wasn’t sewage, the Washington Post reports, exonerating the reputation of Ocean City.
Ocean City shut down its wastewater treatment plant as the storm approached Saturday to prevent a spill or leak, said Jim Parsons, chief deputy director of the town’s public works department. In any case, he said, Ocean City doesn’t dump raw sewage into the water; it treats it according to Environmental Protection Agency standards and then releases it a mile out to sea.
5) THE PROBLEM WITH KIDS BEING KIDS
High school football fans in Louisville, Ohio are upset that officials called a penalty on two players for celebrating a touchdown. The penalty helped set up the opposition’s winning drive.
It turned out the “celebration” was a tribute to a player who had just died.
VIRAL VIDEO OF THE DAY
It’s not exactly fake, but there was more stuntwork involved here than this ad, released this week, suggests. Still, you may not have needed another prompt for a round of “if only I was young, again,” but here you go, anyway. Here’s the whole story behind it.
A Ramsey County citizens panel is planning to hold public hearings on the financing of a proposed Vikings stadium, but some officials are calling for a referendum to put the issue before voters. Today’s Question: What sorts of issues are best put to voters in a referendum?
WHAT WE’RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: How job sharing could help the economy.
Second hour: Books for the college-bound person.
Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Economist Louis Johnston and Chris Farrell on the economy and personal finance. From the State Fair.
Second hour: Garrison Keillor at the Fair’s Carousel Park.
Science Friday (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: The microbe behind Black Death.
Second hour: A history of America’s superhighway system and the engineers that made it happen.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - British actor Hugh Laurie plays the irascible Dr. Gregory House on the television medical drama, “House.” Now, he’s channeling another persona: that of a New Orleans-style piano-playing bluesman. Hugh Laurie talks with host Melissa Block about his life-long love of the blues.
Critically revered Minneapolis songwriter Gretchen Seichrist and her band have developed a variety show they will unveil at the Loring Theater on Saturday. MPR’s Chris Roberts will have a profile.