U.S. Considers Remaking Mortgage Giants
‘Bad Bank’ Would Wipe the Slate Clean for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac by Taking Their Toxic Loans
By Zachary A. Goldfarb and David Cho
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, August 6, 2009
The Obama administration is considering an overhaul of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that would strip the mortgage finance giants of hundreds of billions of dollars in troubled loans and create a new structure to support the home-loan market, government officials said.
The bad debts the firms own would be placed in new government-backed financial institutions — so-called bad banks — that would take responsibility for collecting as much of the outstanding balance as possible. What would be left would be two healthy financial companies with a clean slate.
The moves would represent one of the most dramatic reorderings of the badly shattered housing finance system since District-based Fannie Mae was created by Congress to support mortgage lending during the Great Depression. Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, based in McLean, have government charters to buy home loans from banks, which they then repackage and sell to investors. The banks can then use the proceeds to offer more loans to home buyers.
Blackwater accused of murder in ‘crusade to eliminate Muslims’
From The Times
August 6, 2009
Tim Reid in Washington
A series of allegations including murder, weapons smuggling and the deliberate slaughter of civilians have been levelled against the founder of Blackwater, the security company being investigated for shooting deaths in Iraq.
The accusations, including a claim that the company founder Erik Prince either murdered or had killed former employees co-operating with federal investigators, are contained in sworn affidavits lodged at a Virginia court on Monday night.
The company was the most prominent of an army of private security companies employed by the Pentagon and State Department to protect military convoys and guard US diplomats in Iraq.
The accusations against Mr Prince are being made by two former employees, including a former Marine, who have sworn them anonymously as John Doe No 1 and John Doe No 2, because they said they feared for their lives if their identities were revealed.
U.S. to Reform Policy on Detention for Immigrants
By NINA BERNSTEIN
Published: August 5, 2009
The Obama administration intends to announce an ambitious plan on Thursday to overhaul the much-criticized way the nation detains immigration violators, trying to transform it from a patchwork of jail and prison cells to what its new chief called a “truly civil detention system.”
Details are sketchy, and even the first steps will take months or years to complete. They include reviewing the federal government’s contracts with more than 350 local jails and private prisons, with an eye toward consolidating many detainees in places more suitable for noncriminals facing deportation – some possibly in centers built and run by the government.
The plan aims to establish more centralized authority over the system, which holds about 400,000 immigration detainees over the course of a year, and more direct oversight of detention centers that have come under fire for mistreatment of detainees and substandard – sometimes fatal – medical care.
Healthcare debate gets uglier
Special interests are accused of organizing disruptive outbursts as Democrats try to answer voter concerns.
By Janet Hook
August 6, 2009
Reporting from Washington — An effigy of Rep. Frank Kratovil Jr. was hung outside his office on the eastern shore of Maryland. Rep. Steve Kagen of Wisconsin was shouted down by angry constituents. Rep. Timothy H. Bishop of New York had such a raucous experience with critics on Long Island that he avoids town hall meetings for more manageable settings.
The spark for political firestorms around these back-bench Democrats has been President Obama’s effort to overhaul the healthcare system. The debate has gotten especially ugly now that Congress is adjourning for a monthlong summer recess and critics are mobilizing in force.
Much of the fiercest opposition has been fanned by talk radio and conservative advocacy groups. But the bitter intensity is a pointed reminder of how hard it will be for Democrats to sell voters on a broad reworking of the healthcare system, even though they hold commanding majorities in the House and Senate.
The ISI, Pakistan’s notorious and feared spy agency, comes in from the cold
In its own land the agency is viewed with awe and dread. Now it is opening up – a little – to western journalists
Declan Walsh, Islamabad
The entrance is suitably discreet: a single barrier near a small hospital off a busy Islamabad highway. Bougainvillea spills over long walls with barbed wire; a plain-clothes man packing a pistol questions visitors. Further along, soldiers emerge to check for bombs.
Then a giant electric gate slides back to reveal a sleek grey building that would not look out of place on a California technology campus. With one difference: nothing is signposted.
Welcome to the headquarters of the Inter Services Intelligence Directorate, Pakistan’s premier spy agency. Powerful and notorious in equal measure, for decades the ISI has operated behind a dense veil of secrecy, impervious to allegations of election rigging, terrorist training, abduction and assassination. Many Pakistanis call it the “state within a state”.
A must-have revolution: How shopping became India’s new religion
The explosive growth of India’s middle class has radical implications both for the global economy and for the environment. As consumers there rush to buy the new ‘people’s car’, Andrew Buncombe counts the cost
Thursday, 6 August 2009
The moment he heard the news, Satish Kumar made up his mind to start saving. For years he had been frustrated as he struggled to transport his entire family on his ageing motorbike, in all weathers and on India’s chaotic roads. This “people’s car” that he learnt was being advertised, would be the solution. He had also been looking at Superbike Loans. Getting a brand-new bike really appealed to him. And one with style!
Less than two years later, his wish has transformed into gleaming four-wheeled reality. Last month, the 38-year-old farmer became the first person in northern India to receive a Tata Nano, the £1,250 super- budget car that some believe will revolutionise the way Indians travel.
Russian general defends nuclear submarine patrols off US east coast
Associated Press in Moscow
The Guardian, Thursday 6 August 2009
Russian nuclear-powered attack submarines spotted off the US east coast are on a legitimate training mission, a senior Russian military official said today.
US defence officials said that two Russian submarines had been patrolling in international waters for several days. While the activity was reminiscent of the cold war, the US officials said the submarines had done nothing to provoke concern.
General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, a deputy chief of the general staff of the Russian military, said the patrols were part of efforts to give more training to the armed forces. “The navy mustn’t rest dockside,” Nogovitsyn said at a news conference.
Former ally turns on Silvio Berlusconi for ‘whoring attitude’
From The Times
August 6, 2009
Lucy Bannerman in Rome
Silvio Berlusconi came under more fire for his libidinous approach to politics yesterday after a former senator from his party publicly branded him “a real pig” with a “whoring attitude of contempt towards women”.
Paolo Guzzanti, a right-wing politician who resigned from Mr Berlusconi’s party six months ago, invited magistrates to ask him about the alleged existence of new tape recordings.
He claimed that the “absolutely disgusting” contents of the recordings had the potential to compromise unnamed individuals at the heart of the Italian Government, but said that they had since been destroyed.
TV blackout and boycott mar Ahmadinejad’s swearing-in
Iranian President takes oath of office – but the cries of ‘Death to the Dictator’ can still be heard in Tehran
By Katherine Butler, Foreign Editor
Thursday, 6 August 2009
The man who is now formally Iran’s President for the next four years cut an isolated figure as he took his oath of office yesterday. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was sworn in for a second term at a ceremony boycotted by scores of parliamentarians, leading clerics and other important figures who would normally have been expected to attend.
Out on the streets demonstrators, many in black T-shirts to symbolise mourning, or wearing green, the colour of the campaign run by defeated opposition challenger Mirhossein Mousavi, marked what ought to have been a celebratory occasion by chanting “Death to the Dictator”.
A turf war heats up in Tel Aviv
Some residents of the mostly secular Ramat Aviv district, alarmed by the increasing presence and proselytizing of ultra-Orthodox Haredim, are trying to drive them out.
By Edmund Sanders
August 6, 2009
Reporting from Tel Aviv — It’s a hot, sticky Friday night in one of Tel Aviv’s swankiest neighborhoods and a battle over the community’s soul is about to erupt.
On one side is a group of ultra-Orthodox Jews, in black coats and hats, celebrating the Sabbath by singing, praying and drinking wine in a public courtyard. Attracted by the revelry, and the wine, about two dozen teenagers and young men join in.
At the other end of the plaza is a squad of concerned parents, alarmed by what they see as an extremist religious group trying to get a foothold in their secular neighborhood. They try to persuade the teenagers to stay away from the partying ultra-Orthodox.
The situation escalates. Shouting turns into shoving. By midnight police arrive to restore the peace.
Another Sabbath, a time intended for rest and religious reflection, almost triggers a brawl in Ramat Aviv.
Nigerian militant amnesty starts
An offer of an amnesty for militants in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta region has come into effect.
The BBC Thursday, 6 August 2009
During the next two months the government hopes about 10,000 armed men will surrender their weapons in return for a pardon and retraining.
It is not yet clear how many of the region’s numerous armed groups will take part in the amnesty.
They attack oil refineries and smash pipelines in what they say is a fight for a fair share of the delta’s wealth.
In recent months the violent struggle in the delta has worsened, but the amnesty offer is being hailed by analysts as one of the most significant efforts so far to end the unrest.
The real reasons for Hillary Clinton’s trip to Africa.
By Katie Paul | Newsweek Web Exclusive
Aug 5, 2009
A single scene in the movie Dave, a political comedy about an imposter in the White House, probably does the best job of summing up most American political trips to Africa. In his first appearance, halfway through the movie, a dour-looking Ben Kingsley, playing the vice president, appears in the Oval Office bearing fertility beads from Togo and a giant hat from the people of Burundi. He had been sent on an extended tour through the continent by a president determined to strip him of all power and influence. “They know hats in Burundi,” the president responds. Africa is a punch line. It may be a place where do-gooders can make a difference; it’s just not where the big dogs make their mark.
But the Obama administration is putting Africa front and center this summer, hoping to demonstrate that the continent will no longer be sidelined in American foreign policy.
Nicaragua boxing legend Alexis Arguello and the mayoral curse
When Alexis Arguello was found dead July 1, he became the latest in a line of Managua mayors to reach a bad end. His apparent suicide — if it was that — is surrounded by mystery.
By Tracy Wilkinson
August 6, 2009
Reporting from Managua, Nicaragua — What was it that Nicaragua’s greatest athlete heard from the president’s envoy the night he shot himself in the chest?
After dark on June 30, a loyal lieutenant to President Daniel Ortega paid a visit to Alexis Arguello, the mayor of Managua and a world champion boxer three times over. A few hours later, the mayor was dead.
No one is sure why Arguello killed himself. If it really was suicide, that is.
He was only six months into his new job as mayor. But things were not going well. The old demons of drug abuse nipped at his heels. And then there was a new demon — at least that’s how some people saw it.