Tag Archive | "Obama"

Will the Justice Dept. Prosecute Bank of America JPMorgan, Wells Fargo for Mortgage Fraud?


The Huffington Post has revealed that a set of confidential
federal audits accuse the nation’s five largest mortgage companies of
defrauding taxpayers in their handling of foreclosures on homes
purchased with government-backed loans. The audits conclude the banks
cheated the government by overvaluing their losses on foreclosed homes
and submitting faulty and defective documents to get federal
reimbursement. According to the audit, the banks—Bank of America,
JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial—violated the
False Claims Act, which protects the government from fraudulent billing.
The findings have been referred to the U.S. Department of Justice.

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Wikileaks: Rohrabacher subverted U.S. foreign policy & shilled for friends on Honduras trip


By John Earl
Surf City Voice

Confidential State Department memos released through Wikileaks and the New York Times show that Surf City’s congressman, Dana Rohrabacher, tried to obtain special favors for his friends while undermining Obama’s foreign policy during a visit with Honduran coup d’état leaders in the later part of January and start of February last year.

A military coup had recently overthrown the democratically elected president, Manuel Zalaya, who remains exiled to this day. Representatives of the new government, under the titular leadership of President Porfirio Lobo, pressed Rohrabacher to help them restore U.S. aid that had been withdrawn because of the coup.

Based on the documents, the Times reported that “Using his status as a senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. Rohrabacher cheered his hosts in Honduras by openly challenging the Obama administration’s foreign policy agenda there..”

The Times also reported that “…Mr. Rohrabacher’s trip last February was different because he pushed for small, specific companies with which he had personal and political ties. The coin dealer, John R. Saunders, is a big contributor to Mr. Rohrabacher’s campaigns, dating back at least a decade. The president of SG Biofuels, Kirk Haney, is a friend of Mr. Rohrabacher’s wife and a former intern in the congressman’s office, Mr. Rohrabacher said, as well as a contributor.”

Click here to read the complete New York Times story.

Rohrabacher met with the president of the Honduran Supreme Court and congratulated the court for its ruling justifying the removal of president Zalaya from office, one memo indicates.

“He urged the Government of Honduras to eschew establishing a ‘truth commission,’ asserting that the ‘Supreme Court is the truth commission’ and that any further investigation into the events of the summer would result in continued political division and animosity in the country,” the once-secret memo says.

Rohrabacher and his “delegation,” including representatives of SG Biofuels—one of whom interned for Rohrabacher and is a friend of his wife—met with Ramon Espinoza, President Lobo’s science advisor and agricultural expert, and a government economist to discuss introducing the seed of a strain of Jatropha, a biofuel being developed for the company the University of California at San Diego, to Honduran small farmers.

Current City Councilmember James Righeimer also accompanied the congressman. Righeimer was Rohrabacher’s campaign chairman in his last two reelection campaigns.

The leaked State Department cables are reprinted below.

Date 2010-02-24 20:28:00

Source Embassy Tegucigalpa

Classification CONFIDENTIAL

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TEGUCIGALPA 000169

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/22/2020
TAGS: ECON, PGOV, OVIP, PREL, HO
SUBJECT: ROHRABACHER CODEL

1. (SBU) Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) visited
Honduras January 31-February 2 and called on Hondurans to
“turn the page” on the political events of the summer.
Congressman Rohrabacher commended the Honduran
people for their commitment to democracy and said he would
urge the U.S. government to re-instate revoked U.S. visas.
Congressman Rohrabacher expressed concern that
establishment of a “truth commission,” as called for by the
Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord, would have the effect of
continuing to divide Hondurans. Congressman Rohrabacher,
who was accompanied by several American businessmen and
investors, endorsed US investment and particularly lauded
the benefits of the development of biofuel industry in
Honduras. He enthusiastically promoted a start-up biofuel
company, SG Biofuels. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Congressman Dana Rohrabacher visited Honduras
January 31-February 2, accompanied by President and
Vice-President of SG Biofuels, Kirk Haney and Greg
Simon-Miro;
John Saunders and James Righeimer; and political consultant
Mark Klugman. The delegation met on February 1 with
President
Porfirio Lobo, who was accompanied by Secretary of State for
Foreign Affairs Mario Canahuati; with President of Congress
Juan Orlando Hernandez; and with Science Advisor to the
President Ramon Espinoza. The delegation met on February 2
with President of the Supreme Court Jorge Alberto Rivera
Aviles. The Ambassador and the Embassy country team
provided Congressman Rohrabacher with a briefing. In
addition to these official meetings, the delegation met
independently and informally with several important actors
in the Honduran political scene including: former President
Ricardo Maduro; current Mayor of Tegucigalpa Ricardo
Alvarez; businessmen Camilo Atala, Robert Vinelli and
Richard Vinelli; and President of the Honduran Association
of Small Renewal Energy Producers Elsia Paz.

TURNING THE PAGE ON THE COUP D’ETAT

3. (SBU) Throughout his visit, Congressman Rohrabacher
stressed his great admiration for the commitment of the
Honduran people to democracy. He warned of the danger of
allowing “caudillos” or strongmen, like Cuban President
Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, to
assume control and praised the recently replaced Honduran
de facto regime. (Note: Rohrabacher did not request a
meeting with Roberto Micheletti. End Note).

4. (SBU) In his conversation with President of Congress
Juan Orlando Hernandez on February 1, Congressman
Rohrabacher told Hernandez that he was an emissary of
Honduras’ friends in Congress, in particular member of
Congress Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Congressman Rohrabacher told
Hernandez he believes it is important to bring closure to
the Honduran political crisis. Hernandez agreed that
Honduras needs to put the crisis behind it, adding that the
political amnesty decree passed by the congress on January
26 will contribute to that.

5. (SBU) Hernandez told Congressman Rohrabacher that it is
difficult to understand why some foreign nations have not
recognized the government of President Porfirio Lobo.
Hernandez noted that the electoral process that led to the
November 29 general election began long before the June 28
coup d’etat and was organized by an autonomous body, the
Supreme Electoral Tribunal. Hernandez asked Congressman
Rohrabacher for assistance with resumption of U.S.
assistance. Hernandez stated that some steps on
re-engagement had already taken place, noting his meeting
with the Ambassador earlier that day. Hernandez told
Congressman Rohrabacher that all political parties
represented in congress are ready to take measures to
attract foreign investment. Hernandez said that he is
committed to modernizing the congress and requested
information about the workings of U.S. congressional
committees.

6. (C) Hernandez noted that he was scheduled to meet with
an Israeli delegation on February 5 to discuss their
concerns about Iranian contacts with Venezuelan President
Chavez; Hernandez added that he knew the U.S. was also
concerned about such contact.

TEGUCIGALP 00000169 002 OF 003

7. (SBU) During Congressman Rohrabacher’s meeting with the
President of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court
Justices on February 2, he congratulated the Supreme Court
for its actions in removing President Jose Manuel “Mel”
Zelaya from office. He urged the Government of Honduras to
eschew establishing a “truth commission,” asserting that
the “Supreme Court is the truth commission” and that any
further investigation into the events of the summer would
result in continued political division and animosity in the
country. He also explained that he would return to the US
and urge the administration to reissue visas for those
people whose visas were revoked or suspended in response to
the coup.

8. (SBU) The Supreme Court Justices each took the
opportunity to thank Congressman Rohrabacher for his
comments and defended the integrity of the legal process
used to remove President Zelaya. Justice Victor Manual
Martinez Silva said that the Organization of American
States (OAS) had expelled Honduras and the European Union
(EU) had censured Honduras without even hearing their legal
justifications and he urged that international financial
sanctions be removed. Justice Rosalinda Cruz Sequiera
observed that various human rights reports, including the
Committee on Inter-American Dialogue report, contained
statements that were “completely false” in referring to the
removal of former President Zelaya as a “coup d’etat”. She
expressed the belief that history would bear out the
correctness of their actions. Vice-President of the
Supreme Court-Jose Tomas Arita Valle emphasized that the
actions taken by the court were not driven by political
interests and were practically unanimous.

SUPPORTING US INVESTMENT IN HONDURAN BIOFUEL

9. (U) Congressman Rohrabacher and members of his
delegation met on February 1 with Ramon Espinoza, an
agricultural expert who serves as science advisor to
President Lobo. Mr. Espinoza was accompanied by Manlio
Martinez, a development economist who works in Mr.
Espinoza’s office. The economic counselor also attended
the meeting.

10. (SBU) Congressman Rohrabacher introduced Kirk Haney
and Greg Simon-Miro, representatives of the company SG
Biofuels, which has been developing a highly productive
strain of jatropha, a biofuel, in Guatemala. Congressman
Rohrabacher told Mr. Espinoza that experts from the
University of California at San Diego had been working with
the company to develop the strain. Haney said that the
company had planted 600 hectares of the seed, which is the
top-producing jatropha strain to date, in Guatemala. The
challenge now is to bring the technology to the market.
Haney told Espinoza that, when he first met with
Congressman Rohrabacher about this topic two years ago,
Congressman Rohrabacher had told him that the best way to
do this would be to make the seed available to small
farmers. The company would give the farmers a contract to
buy the seed at a pre-set price.

11. (SBU) Espinoza said that he had worked on a biofuel
project while in academia. He stated that he has talked
about biofuels to President Lobo and believes that the
President wants to make this area a priority. Espinoza
noted that Brazil had benefited from its foresight in
making this a priority starting in the 1980s. Honduras,
Espinoza said, is behind in this area and the challenge
will be to select two or three key priorities. He told
Congressman Rohrabacher that he had opposed Honduras’
emphasis on palm oil, since he does not think it is
advisable to turn a food material into an energy source,
given the distortions this causes to food prices. He said
that the jatropha project was an excellent opportunity.
Haney said that his company was not looking for special
favors from the Honduran government but wanted to make the
government aware that the project was available.

12. (SBU) Espinoza said that Honduras’s development is
hampered by the country’s lack of technical skills. He
noted that Intel had just announced that its highest-end
chip will be produced in Costa Rica, but that this type of
manufacturing would not be possible in Honduras. Congressman

TEGUCIGALP 00000169 003 OF 003

Rohrabacher recommended that Honduras develop its patent and
copyright framework so that there will be an incentive to
innovate.
The Congressman said one way that Honduras could attract
innovators would be to make income derived from patents and
copyrights tax-free.

13. (SBU) In a productive meeting with Ambassador Llorens,
the representatives from SG Biofuel presented their
proposal for initiating jatropha planting operations in
Honduras. The Ambassador and Congressman Rohrabacher
discussed the many ways that this serious initiative
coincides with the Mission’s Strategic Goals on renewable
energy. The Ambassador arranged break-out meetings for the
SG representatives with the economic section, Millenium
Challenge Corporation (MCC) and USAID to discuss further
opportunities for collaboration.

LLORENS
LLORENS

Destination

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DE RUEHTG #0169/01 0552028
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
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FM AMEMBASSY TEGUCIGALPA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1731
INFO RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
RUEIDN/DNI WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COMSOCSOUTH PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
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RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR JTF-BRAVO PRIORITY

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New Huntington Beach Mayor, Joseph John Carchio: ‘These are big shoes to fill’ (but a good deal too)


By John Earl
Surf City Voice

Councilmember Joe Carchio will drive his shiny white (and, finally, fully licensed) 2010 Toyota Venza into the Huntington Beach mayor’s official parking space for the next year, thanks to the same council member who had hoped (informed sources say) a few months ago to put him out of office.

Don Hansen was supposed to be mayor, with Carchio following next year, according to Resolution 6320, which says that council members will rotate based by seniority to serve as Mayor and Mayor Pro Tempore for a one-year term.

Any council member who declines his or her turn goes to the end of the line, according to the resolution.

The 1991 city council enacted the resolution in order to prevent future councils from manipulating the selection process on behalf of special interests, according to current council member and former mayor Keith Bohr.

This is the first time since the resolution was passed that a city council hasn’t followed it.

But the resolution can be broken by a majority vote and that’s what happened during last Monday’s City Council meeting at Don Hansen’s request, with Carchio gladly accepting the honor of becoming mayor.

The vote was no surprise to readers of the Surf City Voice, which exclusively revealed last August that the seat swap between Carchio and Hansen—which will theoretically give the latter a campaign image boost if he decides to run for higher office in 2012—was as good as a done deal.

Hansen explains

Don Hansen: Economy is bad, but it will be fine in one year. Photo by Arturo Tolenttino, SCV

Carchio and Hansen both strongly denied the assertions made in the Voice story—as well as subsequent rumors that included Devin Dwyer becoming mayor—all the way up to Monday’s swearing in ceremony.

New council members Joe Shaw, Connie Boardman and Matt Harper, as well as reelected City Attorney Jennifer McGrath, were also sworn in.

As Hansen started the new city council’s first meeting with the motion to make himself Mayor Pro Tem and Carchio the mayor, his reason for it came across like the proverbial student’s claim that the dog ate his homework.

“As many of you know, I work in the financial sector and the economy…has really taken a toll on my business,” he explained. “And I had always looked forward to serving as mayor when I could do the best job that I possibly can.”

Unfortunately for Hansen and citizens both, “after deep reflection” about what would be best—not just for him and his family, “it did not seem to me that this would be the time where I could do the best for the citizens of Huntington Beach and the best job that I could possibly do.”

Considering that the mayor of Huntington Beach is a figurehead, with few additional duties attached to the role, one wonders how Hansen can give sufficient devotion to his current—less glamorous—but equally demanding role as a city councilman during the same economic hard times that, regrettably, now prevent him from serving as mayor.

Fortunately for Hansen and Surf City’s “citizens,” however, his admirable sacrifice can end in exactly one year. That’s because—almost paradoxically—even though the economy is bad now it is also getting a lot better now, according to Hansen.

“We are seeing the resurgence of my business,” he continued, “and I don’t want to forfeit in any way my ability to serve [as mayor] and do like to serve [as mayor] in 2012.”

Thank you, President Obama.

The new city council approved Hansen’s plan unanimously, 7-0. He will be Mayor Pro Tem now and Mayor in 2012, just in time for the next election campaign season, if he so chooses.

But as Carchio read an unusually coherent acceptance speech that he, wishfully perhaps, claimed to have “hasently” (sic) written, there seemed little doubt that a deal had been signed, sealed and delivered.

“When you get elected to the city council,” he said in deep reflection, “you realize that one day it would be your turn to be mayor.”

Mayor Joseph John Carchio is in good company, however, at least some of the time. “It’s so humbling to follow in the footsteps of some of the great mayors in the past,” he said, noting some of the ones who left well honored paths: Ralph Bauer, Dave Sullivan, Shirley Detloff, and Debbie Cook, to name a few.

“These are big shoes to fill,” he said in conclusion, promising that, “I will continue to carry the great traditions of the city.”

Cover photo: Arturo Tolenttino, SCV.

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Human Population: The Elephant in the Room


By Sarah (Steve) Mosko
Special to the Surf City Voice

It’s hard to come up with a looming environmental problem that’s not ultimately rooted in human population expansion, be it a local issue like traffic congestion, litter and air & drinking water pollution or more global concerns like ocean fish depletion, deforestation, species extinction and global climate change.

We humans currently number 6.9 billion and continue to swell the planet by nearly 80 million more each year. Almost half of us are under the age of 25, and, if present trends continue, we will double in number before 2060.

The United States does not earn a pass when it comes to population pressures on the environment, in part because our per capita resource consumption and waste production dwarf that of much of the rest of the world. Furthermore, the Central Intelligence Agency tracks birth rates, and although the current U. S. birth rate (13.8 births per 1000 people per year) is roughly one-third that of several African countries, 69 other countries have lower birth rates.

The U. S. population has continued to rise by roughly three million each year over the last two decades with the latest total estimate topping 307 million. By the end of this century, there could well be 570 million of us, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Given these harrowing projections and the monumental environmental dilemmas we’re already facing, you’d think that candidly stated strategies to stabilize the population, at home and abroad, would be a priority at every level of government.

Not so.

For starters, consider that neither the Democratic nor Republican Party Platforms of 2008 even mention population growth. The closest the Democratic Platform comes is through explicit support for access to comprehensive family planning services (including sex education, contraception, and safe abortion) as strategies to help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. The Republican Platform heavily stresses the need for immigration reform but without any reference to population control.

While it may be fashionable for politicians to acknowledge that our environment is in serious trouble, and indeed many do work diligently to pass legislation to improve environmental protections,it’s nearly impossible to imagine any one of them saying to the public that there are – or will soon be – too many of us.

What happened to Zero Population Growth?
Baby Boomers may recall when, during the 60s and 70s, the nonprofit organization Zero Population Growth (ZPG) enjoyed a formidable presence on college campuses and in the popular media. Though since renamed Population Connection, it’s still the largest grassroots population organization in the United States. To understand why population per se isn’t a front page issue anymore despite mounting pressures on the environment, I approached the five-year President of Population Connection, John Seager.

Seager points out that it’s hard to keep the public interested in population numbers because the headline would read the same every day, i.e. that global population had jumped by about 220,000 the day before. However, in the late 60s and early 70s, a confluence of events pushed population into the American public’s consciousness for the first time. Among them were Paul R. Ehrlich’s best-selling book “The Population Bomb” which predicted mass human starvation, the advent of birth control pills, the Supreme Court’s 1965 establishment of a constitutional right to use contraceptives, and the unprecedented wave of female Baby Boomers going on to college and choosing to have smaller families.

Yet Seager asserts that population stories are still very much in today’s headlines, but in the guise of seemingly unrelated issues like California’s chronic water shortage, political squabbling over drilling in Alaska’s Arctic refuge, the Aids epidemic in Africa, and this year’s unprecedented flooding in Pakistan which has killed tens of thousands.

Tackling the problem of population head-on is also particularly sensitive at this time in American society because the nation is so divided on abortion rights and immigration, the two flash points that invariably surface whenever population issues come to the fore. According to Seager, unplanned births and immigration contribute about equally to U.S. population growth.

Given the political climate, Seager sees as less important whether politicians speak openly about population growth than whether they support the three measures scientifically proven to curb it: family planning (synonymous with access to modern, artificial means of birth control), comprehensive sex education as opposed to abstinence-only programs, and access to safe and legal abortion.

As evidence that political alliances for or against these measures have shifted substantially over time, Seager points to the fact that Republican President Richard Nixon ardently lobbied for and signed into law Title X (ten), the federal program dedicated to providing family planning services nationwide (his legacy also includes the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency). What’s more, George Bush, Sr., as a young congressman, was such an outspoken supporter of Planned Parenthood that among House colleagues he earned the nickname “Rubbers.” Only later while positioning himself for the White House did he reverse positions on abortion to the extent that he embraced a constitutional amendment to ban abortion.

While President Obama’s stance on controversies affecting population is evident from his campaigning as a pro-choice candidate and subsequent policy implementations (e.g. increased federal funding for domestic and international family planning services; shift away from abstinence-only sex education programs for teens; and rescinding the last-minute Bush Administration policy which allowed pharmacists nationwide to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives), Obama has also refrained from openly pointing to population as the root environmental problem.

The sheer number of we humans is undeniably the behemoth elephant in the room when it comes to the daunting environmental issues of our time. One has to question how far we can get in creating an environmentally sustainable future for our children when we’ve all silently agreed to acknowledge, not the elephant, but only its manifestations like smog, water shortages and climate change.

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