In October of 2010, New York State’s Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman became deeply concerned about the big banks lax handling of mortgage documents and several lenders and servicers who had hired staff who did not properly review files or submitted false statements to evict delinquent borrowers. Consequently to curb the illegal practice and preserve the integrity of the court foreclosure laws, Judge Lippman ordered that lawyers handling the foreclosures be held accountable for the paperwork:
Chief Judge Lippman said, “We cannot allow the courts in New York State to stand by idly and be party to what we now know is a deeply flawed process, especially when that process involves basic human needs – such as a family home – during this period of economic crisis. This new filing requirement will play a vital role in ensuring that the documents judges rely on will be thoroughly examined, accurate, and error-free before any judge is asked to take the drastic step of foreclosure.”
Under the new requirement, plaintiff’s counsel in foreclosure matters must submit the affirmation at one of several stages. In new cases, the affirmation must accompany the Request for Judicial Intervention. In pending cases, the affirmation must be submitted with either the proposed order of reference or the proposed judgment of foreclosure. In cases where a foreclosure judgment has been entered but the property has not yet been sold at auction, the affirmation must be submitted to the court referee, and a copy filed with the court, five business days before the scheduled auction. Counsel is also obligated to file an amended version of the affidavit if new facts emerge after the initial filing.
The new program is to start in Queens this spring and then expand around the city and to nearby suburbs, court officials said. The officials said that under the program, judges would take over the running of some settlement conferences from court attorneys, who lack the power to impose punishments. State law requires that bank representatives “be fully authorized to dispose of the case,” but enforcement of that requirement has been sporadic.
The officials said the plan would include court supervision of the collection of required documents to try to avoid delays and would seek to shorten the time some foreclosure cases linger in the courts to several months from up to two years.
Courts would also work to assure that homeowners who cannot afford lawyers are represented, though some lawyers who handle such cases questioned whether that goal was realistic.
There are still some hurdles, such as immediate funding for lawyers to represent homeowners until the funds from the settlement are release. A spokesperson for Gov. Andrew Cuomo said “negotiations with the Legislature were likely to find money for the legal agencies in the meantime.”
It good to see that judiciary is stepping in when prosecutors drop the ball, thanks to commonsense jurist like Jonathan Lippman.
On this day in Japan, the Plum Blossom Festival is held. The Festival at the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto is one one of the most beautiful. The shrine was built in 947, to appease the angry spirit of bureaucrat, scholar and poet Sugawara no Michizane, who had been exiled as a result of political maneuvers of his enemies in the Fujiwara clan.
The shrine was dedicated to Michizane; and in 986, the scholar-bureaucrat was deified and the title of Tenjin (Heavenly Deity) was conferred.
The grounds are filled with Michizane’s favorite tree, the red and white ume or plum blossom, and when they blossom the shrine is often very crowded. Open-air tea ceremonies are hosted by geiko and apprentice maiko from the nearby Kamishichiken district. The plum festival has been held on the same day every year for about 900 years to mark the death of Michizane.
Sugawara no Michizane, August 1, 845 – March 26, 903, was a scholar, poet, and politician of the Heian Period of Japan. He is regarded as an excellent poet, particularly in Chinese poetry.
He was educated in a private school run by his father where he studies to become an official in the Court of the Japanese Emperor. His training and skill with Classical Chinese language and literature afforded him many opportunities to draft edicts and correspondences for officials in the Court in addition to his menial duties. Records show at this time he composed three petitions for Fujiwara no Yoshifusa as well as the Emperor. Michizane also took part in receiving delegations from the Kingdom of Parhae, where Michizane’s skill with Chinese again proved useful in diplomatic exchanges and poetry exchange. In 877, he was assigned to the Ministry of the Ceremonial, which allowed him to manage educational and intellectual matters more than before. While serving as governor of Sanuki Province, he intervened in a Court matter on the side Emperor Uda over Fujiwara no Mototsune and at the end of his term returned to the Court in Kyoto where he served in many positions.
He was appointed ambassador to China in the 890s, but instead came out in support of abolition of the imperial embassies to China in 894, theoretically in consideration for the decline of the Tang Dynasty. A potential ulterior motive may have lain in Michizane’s almost complete ignorance of spoken Chinese; most Japanese at the time only read Chinese, and knew little to nothing about the spoken language. Michizane, as the nominated ambassador to China, would have been presented with a potential loss of face had he been forced to depend on an interpreter. Emperor Uda stopped the practice of sending ambassadors to China by what he understood as persuasive counsel from Michizane.
Within the end of Emperor Uda reign in 897, Michizane’s position became increasingly vulnerable. In 901, through the political maneuverings of his rival, Fujiwara no Tokihira, Michizane was demoted from his aristocratic rank of junior second to a minor official post at Dazaifu, in Kyushu‘s Chikuzen Province. After his lonely death, plague and drought spread and sons of Emperor Daigo died in succession. The Imperial Palace’s Great Audience Hall (shishinden) was struck repeatedly by lightning, and the city experienced weeks of rainstorms and floods. Attributing this to the angry spirit of the exiled Sugawara, the imperial court built a Shinto shrine called Kitano Tenman-gu in Kyoto, and dedicated it to him. They posthumously restored his title and office, and struck from the record any mention of his exile. Sugawara was deified as Tenjin-sama, or kami of scholarship. Today many Shinto shrines in Japan are dedicated to him.
A study panel from the labor ministry has identified six categories of behavior that constitute “power harassment,” including “giving the cold shoulder in the workplace” and “demanding the impossible.”
The NPA says the recent rise in fatal traffic accidents on expressways might be linked to the elimination of tolls, which has “drawn inexperienced drivers to highways.”
The welfare ministry found that workers who make less than ¥2 million a year “have more health problems than higher earners.”
A 37-year-old Chinese man was arrested for throwing four Molotov cocktails at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.
The price of gas at the pump has risen sharply since the beginning of the year and is expected to continue to rise through the summer. The demand for oil and refined products has fallen over the last year, there is a surplus of oil on the market and the United States is exporting more gasoline than it’s importing. In the absence of supply and demands, the main factor is speculation on the world market that has been driven by the latest threat of military action in the Middle East and other smaller factors like the growth of emerging countries such as China and India.
Since oil prices are the biggest component in the price of gasoline, pump prices are soaring. AAA said Tuesday that the nationwide average price for a gallon of gasoline stood at $3.57, compared with $3.38 a month ago and $3.17 a year ago. It takes about $6 more to fill up the tank than it did this time last year – and last year’s gasoline-price surge helped take the steam out of the economic recovery.
Defining what percentage of today’s high oil and gasoline prices is due to excessive speculation, driven by Iran fears, is something of a guessing game.
“I put the Iran security premium at about $8 to $10 (a barrel) at this point, which still puts crude at about $90 or $95,” said John Kilduff, a veteran energy analyst at AgainCapital in New York.
The fear premium is the froth above what prices would be absent fears of a supply disruption – somewhere in the $80 to $85 range for a barrel of crude oil. It means that even with the extra cost put on oil from Iran fears, prices are at least another $10 higher than what demand fundamentals would dictate.
Why? Financial speculators.
What should the price of oil be if left to conventional supply and demand market fundamentals? Canada’s the largest supplier of imported oil to the United States, which now actually produces more than half of the oil it consumes. Production and delivery costs for a barrel of oil from Canada are about $75 a barrel. The market-fundamentals cost for a barrel of oil is in that ballpark; above that, speculation sets the prices.
“It’s as simple as that,” said Gheit, who has testified before Congress and called for regulatory limits on speculation in commodities markets.
Historically, financial speculators accounted for about 30 percent of oil trading in commodity markets, while producers and end users made up about 70 percent. Today it’s almost the reverse.
President Obama barely mentioned this in his energy speech this week and his energy policy offered no solutions to controlling the speculators.
Most of the ongoing increases in gas prices can be traced to geopolitical concerns and rampant financial speculation that have run up the cost of crude oil. And yet, if U.S. refiners limited themselves to domestic sales, there would be a glut on the market, and diesel and gasoline prices would inevitably drop.
“The other countries are willing to pay more than we would,” said James Hamilton, an economics professor and blogger at the University of California, San Diego. “And that’s the price we pay, too, what they’re willing to pay.”
Hamilton said that’s how things work in a global market. “If you are a refiner and you’ve got gasoline to sell, you want to sell it where you can get the highest price,” he said. “If Mexico is willing to pay a higher price to Americans, you’re going to want to sell it to them instead of Americans.” [..]
“I do not support an outright ban of exports,” said Tyson Slocum, director of the energy program for the consumer watchdog group Public Citizen. “And I don’t want to see the government regulating retail prices. But I don’t think that it is in our best interests to be exporting at the rate at which we are.”
Slocum suggests that exports of petroleum products “should go through a regulatory barrier to assure that they aren’t resulting in higher prices for Americans, or otherwise hurting the economy.”
That’s what happens now with U.S.-produced crude oil. Oil companies aren’t allowed to export crude without permission from the Department of Commerce, which, by law, checks to make sure “that the proposed export is consistent with the national interest”. [..]
Any attempt to limit exports would, of course, be met by ferocious resistance from the refiners. Their profit margins would drop, and refiners would inevitably warn that with less money to reinvest, there could be shortages in the future.
But the many refineries owned by large, vertically integrated oil companies that own the oil production facilities as well are hardly hurting for money. In fact, when oil prices go up, as they are now, their profits go up as well; it doesn’t cost them any more to get the oil out of the ground — somewhere around $30 a barrel — but they get to charge as much as the market will bear.
No politician, not even the President, wants to stop the flow and profits to these “oil-garchs” and the flow of cash to their campaign coffers. That said, another solution that can be done is to temper the war mongering in the Middle East. Instead of threats of military intervention with Iran which even our military and national security advisers agree would be disastrous, a more reasoned diplomatic approach could go a long way to curbing the speculators. When President Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu at the White house next month, he needs to stress the need to temper the saber rattling.
I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I need a break from reality, at least for a few hours. The chance to sit in front of the big tube with a drink and a bowl of popcorn or other finger food and watch the glitz and glamor as the stars walk down the red carpet and make fools of themselves bumbling the lines of acceptance speeches.
Some folks make this show like the Super Bowl with special drinks and food. Some go as far as getting dressed. Some go for simple, while some just go all out for exotic drinks and fancy food. The fanciest I get is putting on my sequin-adorned blue suede pumps with my sweats, an extra olive in my martini and maybe some fresh grated Parmesan cheese on my popcorn. Last year I listed some of the special drinks that were concocted specially for some of the nominees. This year there is only one drink that the “in” crowd will be sipping, the martini, in honor of the movie, The Artist, that is expected to win “Best Picture”. I like mine with vodka.
Toss high-quality crab meat with minced shallots, a little tarragon or a lot of parsley and/or basil, and enough mayonnaise to bind. Also good on lettuce leaves.
Chop shrimp fine, then sauté in a minimum of oil, or poach quickly and drain. Mix premade pesto with mayonnaise so that it is gluey. Combine cooled shrimp with sufficient pesto to bind; chill.
Beef tartare: Carefully pulse good beef in food processor. For each pound, add an egg, a teaspoon dry mustard, a tablespoon Dijon mustard, a tablespoon Worcestershire, Tabasco to taste, 1/2 cup chopped scallions and a touch of minced garlic. Salt and pepper, if necessary. Amazing stuff.
Bruschetta is the basis for so many good things. Don’t make it too crisp, and start with good country bread. Brush thick slices with olive oil. Broil until toasted on both sides. While it’s still hot, rub with cut clove of garlic on one side (optional). Drizzle with a bit more olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and serve, or top with prosciutto or tapenade.
Top bruschetta with chopped, well-cooked broccoli rabe or other greens tossed with minced garlic and olive oil while still warm. Health food, practically.
Cut chorizo into chunks. Cook in a lightly oiled skillet until nicely browned. Kielbasa is equally good (or better), if not as hip.
Portable Caprese: Skewer a small ball of mozzarella, a grape tomato and a bit of basil leaf. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with oil.
A no-brainer: Cut slab of bacon into 1/2-inch chunks. Cook in a skillet, a broiler or a high-heat oven until nice and crisp. Skewer with a grape tomato.
Crab cakes: For each pound crab meat, add an egg, 1/4 cup each minced bell pepper and onion, 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons bread or cracker crumbs, salt and pepper. Shape into small cakes and refrigerate, if time allows. Dredge in flour, then brown in oil (or oil mixed with butter). Serve with lemon wedges, aioli or tartar sauce.
Chicken kebab, Greek style: Cut boneless, skinless chicken thighs into 1-inch chunks. Toss with minced onion, minced garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, crumbled bay leaf and oregano. Skewer. Broil, turning occasionally, until browned.
Pork kebabs, West Indian style: Mix 1 tablespoon garlic, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, a pinch of nutmeg, a teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves, 1/4 cup chopped onion and the juice of a lime. Toss with 1 pound pork shoulder (you need some fat or these will be tough) cut into 1-inch cubes. Skewer and broil about 5 minutes.
Shrimp cocktail: Combine ketchup with chili powder, pepper, lemon juice, Worcestershire, Tabasco and horseradish. Make lots, because people will be double-dipping. Serve with cooked shrimp.
Soy ginger wings: This time baste with equal parts vinegar and soy sauce, mixed with a couple of tablespoons each minced ginger and sesame oil. You can sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on the wings.
Dips and Spreads
Hummus: Truly one of the great culinary inventions. Mix four parts well-cooked or canned chickpeas with one part tahini, along with some of its oil, in a food processor. Add garlic, cumin or pimentón and purée, adding as much olive oil as needed. Stir in lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste; garnish with olive oil and pimentón.
Boursin: Maybe you have a few Ritz? Mash cream cheese with minced garlic (if you have roasted garlic, so much the better), pepper and small amounts of minced thyme, tarragon and rosemary.
Little Sandwich Triangles
Layer cooked ham and cheese (Gruyère, Cantal or good Cheddar) on thin bread, then press and grill in a not-too-hot skillet with butter or oil.
Cheese quesadillas: Use 4-inch tortillas; on each, put grated cheese, scallions and minced canned green chilies or chopped fresh poblanos. Salsa and beans are optional. Top with another tortilla. Griddle with oil, turning once, about 5 minutes.
You Might Need a Fork
This is easier than carpaccio: Cut trimmed filet mignon into 1/2-inch or smaller cubes. Toss with arugula, parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Make parsley pesto (parsley, garlic, oil, lemon juice) in a food processor. Sauté whole shrimp or small pieces of fish in oil. Arrange fish on small beds of the pesto. You can put this on bread and forget the plates.
Soups and Wraps
Bisque: Heat shrimp, lobster, fish or chicken broth with minced onion and chopped tomato for 5 minutes. Add chopped shrimp or lobster to the simmering stock, and cook another two minutes. Purée, then add heavy cream or half-and-half, along with salt and pepper. Serve in small cups garnished, if you like, with a piece of cooked shrimp or lobster.
Gazpacho: Chop 2 pounds of tomatoes and a cucumber; blend with a couple of slices of day-old bread, torn into pieces, olive oil, sherry vinegar, garlic (optional) and anchovies (optional). Add a little water (or more oil) to the blender, if necessary. Taste and adjust seasoning, then serve in small cups. Optional garnishes include minced bell pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, a piece of anchovy, and/or parsley.
Broil a good hot dog, roll in a good tortilla spread with brown or Dijon mustard. Slice. You know everyone will eat them.
Get ready for the party and live blog with us tomorrow night.
Some stories require follow-up. How else are we going to know how they are progressing? In December I wrote about the treatment of transkids in A Voice for the Future. I’d written about the issue before that as well.
How are doctors treating these children?
They’re prescribing young GID patients with puberty-blocking drugs until age 16, as recommended in guidelines from the Endocrine Society. Then doctors begin lifelong treatment with sex-changing hormones, while monitoring for potential health risks. The guidelines recommend the aid of mental health professionals throughout the process.
A new study about gender non-conformity has been published and even made its way to the mainstream media (Washington Post, CNN Health, The Week, AP. Two articles about gender-variant behavior are in the March issue of Pediatrics. The Advocatepicked up the story, but concentrated on a survey from 2010 about how 41% of transpeople have attempted suicide. They did, however, provide a link to LiveScience, which was helpful.