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Fri, 03 Feb 2023
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Government to Seek Court Approval of $25 Billion Mortgage Pact

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© Reuters/Shannon Stapleton
A home is seen padlocked and boarded up in Brentwood, New York February 10, 2012.
US, Washington DC - A previously announced $25 billion settlement between five major banks accused of abusive mortgage practices and government officials will be filed in federal court on Monday, people familiar with the matter said late Friday.

The pact unveiled February 9 is expected to result in payments and other mortgage relief for about one million borrowers, but must first be approved by a judge.

Bank of America Corp, Wells Fargo & Co, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup Inc and Ally Financial Inc agreed to the settlement after 16 months of negotiations with state attorneys general and federal agencies, including the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

But the fine print took another month to finalize.

Negotiators had hoped to file a settlement on Friday, but the deal was held up at the last minute over a disagreement between Nevada and Bank of America, people familiar with the matter said.

Alarm Clock

'Dance Moms' 'Nude' Dance Routine Episode Playground for Pedophiles, Experts Say

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© Lifetime
Lifetime's reality series Dance Moms, which follows young girls training at the Abby Lee Dance Company, is being ripped for its latest episode involving the child dancers wearing costumes that simulate nudity.

Tuesday night's episode, titled "Topless Showgirls," featured girls as young as eight performing a sexually charged, provocative showgirl-like routine in a local dance competition, donning barely-there sparkly flesh-colored bras and panties to give the illusion of nudity.

"All the girls and I feel kind of nervous because we feel kind of naked," one of the dancers said prior to taking the stage.

Pyschological experts and parents groups we talked to are up-in-arms over the stripper-esque theme, and fear that the episode could act as encouragement for pedophiles and sexual predators.

House

Banks Foreclosing on Churches in Record Numbers

Reverend Gregory G. Groover sits for a portrait
© Reuters/Brian Snyder
Reverend Gregory G. Groover sits for a portrait inside the Charles St. AME Church in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts.
Banks are foreclosing on America's churches in record numbers as lenders increasingly lose patience with religious facilities that have defaulted on their mortgages, according to new data.

The surge in church foreclosures represents a new wave of distressed property seizures triggered by the 2008 financial crash, analysts say, with many banks no longer willing to grant struggling religious organizations forbearance.

Since 2010, 270 churches have been sold after defaulting on their loans, with 90 percent of those sales coming after a lender-triggered foreclosure, according to the real estate information company CoStar Group.

In 2011, 138 churches were sold by banks, an annual record, with no sign that these religious foreclosures are abating, according to CoStar. That compares to just 24 sales in 2008 and only a handful in the decade before.

The church foreclosures have hit all denominations across America, black and white, but with small to medium size houses of worship the worst. Most of these institutions have ended up being purchased by other churches.

Smoking

Hands Off Our Packs - Nanny Town

The Government is set to announce a public consultation on whether the United Kingdom should adopt 'plain' packaging of tobacco products. Hands Off Our Packs has been launched by the smokers' group Forest to combat the threat of plain packaging. Our first campaign video features contributions from Hands Off Our Packs campaigner Angela Harbutt; Mark Littlewood, director-general, Institute of Economic Affairs; Sam Bowman, Adam Smith Institute; Simon Clark, director, Forest; and others opposed to this potentially damaging measure. If you oppose the plain packaging of tobacco please visit our website, www.handsoffourpacks.com, and register your support. By signing up you can help protect Britain from the dangers of excessive regulation.

Comment: For more information on the benefits of smoking, see these Sott articles:

Let's All Light Up!

5 Health Benefits of Smoking

Health Benefits of Smoking Tobacco

First They Came for the Smokers... And I said Nothing Because I Was Not a Smoker


Heart - Black

Children found living in school bus, while parents imprisoned for embezzlement

Houston, Texas - The imprisoned father of two Texas children found living in an abandoned school bus is claiming the home was only meant to be temporary.

Mark Shorten said he planned to build a house on a wooded lot near Houston before he and his wife were arrested for embezzlement in 2010. Child welfare officials took custody of his children earlier this week after the siblings -- a 5-year-old boy and 11-year-old girl -- were found living in the dilapidated bus at the end of a muddy, one-lane road in Splendora, home to one of the poorest school districts in the state.
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© AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Brett Coomer
A Montgomery Count sheriff's deputy walks away from an old school bus where two children were found living on their own Wednesday in Spendora, Texas. An 11-year-old girl is said to be living in the bus with her five-year-old brother. Both of the children's parents are in prison, officials said.
Fox affiliate KRIV-TV reported Thursday that no charges have been filed yet in the case. The children's parents are in federal prison for stealing money from victims of Hurricane Ike, which struck in 2008, according to the station.

The postal carrier saw the kids Wednesday near Houston, and the two were swiftly placed in foster care while authorities investigate.

"The little girl's hair was just matted, like a stray dog's," Vanessa Picazo said.

Sheriff

Miami-Dade teen killed by a crime watch captain

Trayvon Martin traveled to Sanford on a trip with his father. The teen returned to his Miami home in a body bag.

Martin, 17, was shot and killed Feb. 26 by a neighborhood crime watch captain.

The circumstances of the shooting are still unknown, but the 26-year-old man who shot Martin, George Zimmerman, gave a statement to police that he shot in self-defense.

Martin's grieving family said the teen went out around 7:30 on that Sunday during the NBA All-Star Game halftime to get snacks from a nearby 7-Eleven convenience store. He purchased Skittles candies and an Arizona iced tea for his stepbrother.

Somehow, on the way back to the Central Florida townhouse where Martin was staying, he ran into Zimmerman, who was armed with a 9mm handgun, reports said.

Martin was shot once in the chest.

"He had a gun, and Trayvon had Skittles," said Benjamin Crump, the family's attorney. "We want justice."

Dollar

Lottery winner using food stamps: 'I thought maybe it was okay because I'm not working'

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© unk
While most people have played the "if I had a million dollars I would ____ " thought game, few fill that blank in with "stay on public assistance."

Amanda Clayton, a 24-year-old from Lincoln Park, Mich., is one of the few who does, and she is getting away with it. Clayton won $1 million from the Michigan State Lottery this fall, but she is still collecting and using $200 a month in food assistance from the taxpayers with her Michigan Bridge Card.

"I thought that they would cut me off, but since they didn't, I thought maybe it was okay because I'm not working," the lottery winner who just purchased a new house and car told Local 4 in Detroit. The station even filmed her shamelessly purchasing goods.

When Local 4 asked if she felt she had a right to the money, Clayton responded, "I mean I kinda do."

Eye 2

Groucho Club's website forum hit by child pornography scandal

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The Groucho Club, Soho, central London
On the 10th of November 2010 it was discovered that an online member's forum operating under the name of the Groucho Club forum was being used over a prolonged period of time by a network of paedophiles.

The forum contained hundreds of web pages and links to pornographic videos and images of young children and infants available for sex. This discovery was made by award winning filmmaker and writer Tyrone D Murphy while investigating the sale of alcohol through the Groucho Club's website for Chapter 13 of his book The Groucho Gate Affair. The filmmaker immediately reported the discovery to the Metropolitan Police Service and to CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre).

The search terms on Google that led to the discovery of the child exploitation was 'Site:thegrouchoclub.com' and 'Site:thegrouchoclub.co.uk'. These search terms on Google will only list all the web pages within a specific domain. Murphy also discovered that the evidence of the offensive content was being deleted from the website forum, and the links on the Google listings were now forwarded to a home page of the Groucho Club's own website. However, the evidence was also stored on cache pages (snapshot) by the search engine Google of the Groucho Club forum and the illegal content. Within a week of the report to the Police, Murphy discovered that the cache pages were now also being discreetly deleted.

The preservation of the evidence at this stage was crucial to assist any criminal investigation and prosecute the offenders. Murphy again contacted the Metropolitan Police Service and CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) several times by telephone and e-mail as a matter of extreme urgency, and he relayed his concerns that the evidence was now being destroyed.

Comment: The Groucho Club is a celebrity hangout in Soho, London, where all sorts of high-level politicos pass through...


Heart - Black

Shantelle Hicks, Pregnant 8th Grader, Outed To New Mexico School Assembly

Shantelle Hicks, a 15-year-old from Gallup, N.M.
© KOB TV

Shantelle Hicks, a 15-year-old from Gallup, N.M. claims she was first forced to leave the Wingate Elementary School and then publicly outed as being pregnant in front of all students and employees, KOB-TV reports.

Wingate Elementary is a public boarding school for Native American children from kindergarten through 8th grade.

Now, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, Hicks has filed suit against the school, claiming they violated her constitutional rights. According to the complaint, school officials kicked Hicks out of school after learning of her pregnancy, but readmitted her four days later when the ACLU of New Mexico informed the school that it's illegal to deny a student access to education for being pregnant.

But two weeks after her readmission, a school counselor and the director of the middle school forced the teen to stand before the middle school assembly and announced her condition -- allegedly before anyone but her sister knew.

"It was so embarrassing to have all the other kids staring at me as I walked into the gymnasium," said Hicks, according to KOB. "I didn't want the whole school to know I was pregnant because it's not their business, and it wasn't right for my teachers to single me out."

Alarm Clock

Bioethicist: Jon Stewart is America's greatest public intellectual

Jon Stewart
© The Daily Show
A bioethicist at Loyola University claims that comedian Jon Stewart is currently the top public intellectual in the United States, a position that has typically been attributed to Henry Kissinger.

"Jon Stewart is our greatest public intellectual. This is no joke," Dr. Kayhan Parsi wrote in an article published in the American Journal of Bioethics.

"Although Stewart himself would deride such an assertion as the kind of hyperbole that too often permeates our political discourse, this is simply a fact," he said. "Stewart has emerged as our voice of sanity in a sea of insanity in a new media age with its ephemeral nature and lack of substance."

For the past 12 years, Stewart has mocked political theatrics in America. On The Daily Show, he often juxtaposes media clips to humorously analyze political discourse, pointing out hyperbole and misleading news narratives, or lampooning politicians' hypocrisy.

"Today, the effective public intellectual has to be less the pedant and more the artful catalyst for independent thought," Parsi wrote. "Perhaps unwittingly or even unknowingly, Stewart has taken on this role with relish and gusto."