Archive | November, 2012

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Police Arrest Suspect in Albany Ave Shooting


HARTFORD — Hartford Police on Thursday arrested a suspect in a November shooting that killed Verall “Anthony” Hampton on Albany Avenue.

Byron “Bleach” Williams, 44, of Hartford was arrested at the Hartford Police Department after turning himself in through his attorney, police said. Williams was charged with assault with a firearm, which occurred on Nov. 11 at about 5 a.m., at 1062 Albany Ave. He was also charged with criminal attempt to commit murder, assault in the first degree and criminal possession of a firearm.

The victim, Hampton of Hartford, was shot five times, police said.

Williams has 49 previous arrests in the city and was on probation at the time of the incident, police said.

He is being held on $750,000 judge-set bond.

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Health Beat: Find Your Bliss With Community Acupuncture


Updated Dec. 2. 2012 at 6:15 a.m.

By Ann-Marie Mesquita, Staff Writer

WINDSOR —  The two-inch needles are thin like spider legs sticking out of human skin, seemingly harmless.

But many acupuncturists consider them potent remedy for stress and other ailments that disrupt the body’s balance and well-being. As the holiday approaches, those acupuncture needles may be one way to boost immunity and calm nerves–so you can get on with gift-buying, or party-planning.

To attain mental bliss during the holiday season, you can find low-cost and high-quality havens right here in Greater Hartford.

Many Rivers Community Acupuncture in Windsor is a 20-minute drive from Hartford worth your time. If only to lay comfortable on a reclining leather chair, while listening to the sound of the ocean’s backwash along a sea shore, albeit through a speaker box.

Founded by Carrie Sawtell, Many Rivers offers treatment sessions for a sliding scale fee of $15 to $35.  For anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours, you can sit with needles at various pressure points to de-stress.

You pay what you can afford. Sawtell doesn’t ask for income verification. But there’s a $10 paperwork fee for new clients to go over your health history and a treatment plan. Many Rivers will offer an open house on Nov. 30 from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Acupuncture involves using needles to ease pain by stimulating the body.

It has been practiced in China for over 3,000 years. When this ancient Chinese tradition moved to the Western hemisphere, acupuncturists offered one-on-one sessions in private rooms. One session costs up to $100. That’s because you are paying for the acupuncturist’s time. Within this nation-wide network of community acupuncture centers, it’s high volume for low cost. So you may be in a room with up to four people. And you can stay as long as you want until you feel better,  Sawtell said.

Sawtell, who discovered acupuncture in college when she had digestive problems, said she couldn’t afford private sessions. Then she purchased a book and used the  methods described to apply pressure to certain areas of the body to treat specific ailments. Since then, she has been hooked on the tradition.

She also lived in China for three years and studied the craft. When she returned to the United States, she moved from her home state of Massachusetts to open her practice with her husband in Windsor. Many Rivers is part of the community acupuncture movement with a mission to help make health care affordable and accessible in the United States.

Sawtell was keen on having an affordable practice to attract friends, family, other struggling college students and those with limited discretionary income. So patients who don’t mind the company of up to four strangers can find, if not anything else, a moment away from home or work to relax without the distraction of children, husband, wife or other factors that hamper concentrated moments of peace.  In the winter time, it is an alternative to a walk in the park.

So the cost is relatively low and it reduces stress. But can one session cure other ailments? No. Like any treatment, you need a series, which varies and is based on the ailment. According to Sawtell, acupuncture can treat many ailments: colds, flus, infertility, menstrual cramps, inflammation, headaches, among other things. But it cannot treat cancer. It can, however, help with the side effects of radiation and other cancer treatments. Acupuncture can also be effective for all kinds of pain, including back pain, shoulder pain, hip pain, knee pain, and heel pain.

From a western medical perspective, the practice of acupuncture is changing the way the body perceives pain.  A recent study showed that acupuncture reduces levels of a specific protein that is elevated when a person is stressed, Sawtell said. Acupuncture may also release endorphins that decrease pain. In addition, it helps to reduce inflammation and open up the flow of qi (pronounced chee) to let your body heal itself.

So … heal thyself.

Throughout the months of December and January, The Hartford Guardian will introduce you to low-cost remedies for a better well being and mental health in the Greater Hartford region. This is the first of a series on low-cost treatments for Mental Health and Well Being. 

Also check out this daylong workshop of experts with resources and practices that demonstrate how to be more productive and healthy in our lives. Topics covered include calming your mind, using yoga techniques for stress reduction and mindfulness training. The event will be at Kabbalah House at  1023 Albany Ave.  from noon to 5 p.m. It is free and open at the public. Wear comfortable clothing and bring a blanket for floor work.

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Hartford Residents to no Longer Get Police Service From Jennings Road


By Ryan Grace, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — For the first time in Hartford’s history, the police, fire and EMS departments will be closer to city residents and in one building on High Street.

Mayor Pedro E. Segarra along with the Hartford Police Department and Hartford Fire Department announced last week that several services have relocated to the new $77 million Public Safety Complex on 253 High St.

Those services include the 911 Dispatch Center, 311 Call Center, Hartford Fire Department Fire Marshals and Inspectors, Hartford Fire Department, Hartford Police Department Traffic, administrative offices, school crossing guards and parking.

“Now residents, visitors, businesses, will benefit from having a centralized location dedicated to facilitating calls and ultimately keeping our City safe. It’s another step towards improving communication among all City departments, a top priority for my administration,” Segarra said.

This move is significant because the current location of the Hartford Police Department and Emergency Services and Telecommunications on Jennings Road is distant from the center of the city and this will bring the city’s local respondents closer to the heart of Hartford.

“If you look at the concentration of activity where police would be needed in Hartford, the police are not close enough to respond efficiently,” said Hartford resident Jo-Ann Dominique of White St.

Some Hartford residents feel like the move to High St. is the ideal placement from an accessibility standpoint.

“It’s location in proximity to the highway system and a major intersection will provide a better response time for outlying regions that Jennings Road couldn’t accommodate” said Hartford resident Darien Stone.

From 1983 to 1995 the Hartford Police Department’s booking division was located on Morgan St. but was shut down to keep costs down for the state of Connecticut.  The annual cost of running the Morgan Street facility, was $1.2 million.

The gleaming facility includes a two-level parking garage, the emergency operations center, the state’s backup emergency operations center and separate lockups for men and women.

The investment for the financing of the facility predominately comes from a bond referendum in 2000 in which 9,804 Hartford residents authorized the $40 million construction of a public safety complex.

Nancy Mulroy, spokeswoman for the Hartford Police Department, said: “All capital projects have to be funded by municipal bonds and those bond authorizations must be approved by the citizens of Hartford. If the city didn’t want this change, they would’ve voted it down. It’s been in the works for a long time.”

Hartford Police Chief James Rovella said that several services will transition to the new complex during the first week of December including Major Crimes Division, Juvenile Investigative Division, Internal Affairs and Backgrounds, Crime Scene Division, Civil Litigation, Advocate Office, Personnel/Planning and Accreditation Offices, Fiscal and Payroll Offices, and the Office of the Chief of Police.

Rovella added that patrol operations, booking and detention and the records division will continue to operate out of 50 Jennings Rd. until early January 2013,

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Wanted: Hartford Residents to Serve on Boards


HARTFORD —  So … you’re not pleased with many services in the city. And you think city officials could do more. Well, now is your chance to have a direct impact on how the city is run.

Mayor Pedro Segarra on Thursday invited Hartford residents to an information session to learn about serving on a Board or Commission through a program called Accountability. Collaboration. Transparency.

ACT for Hartford is a partnership between the Hartford and Leadership Greater Hartford, and it is focused on promoting accountability, collaboration and transparency in city government through the work of Boards and Commission, city officials said.

“If Hartford residents can assist in developing local policies that eliminate hunger, help grandparents raise their grandchildren, assist persons with disabilities, or any number of other issues, they should consider becoming a candidate for one of our 33 active Boards and Commissions,” Segarra said.

The session will be held on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 at Council Chambers, 2nd floor, Municipal Building, 550 Main St., Hartford from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

The following Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Hartford residents will have the opportunity to participate in a Boards and Commissions Fair at the Center for Contemporary Culture in the Hartford Public Library, 500 Main Street in Hartford.

See attached flyer.

To register for either event, please contact: Ana Valentin-Jackson, Leadership Greater Hartford Program Director at ana.valentin-jackson@leadershipgh.org, 860-951-6161 x 19.

 

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A Slice of Pi with India a la Mode


By  Sandip RoyFirst Post

I don’t think I spotted a cow but I might have missed it because I was too focused on the orang utan and the zebra and the hyena and the Royal Bengal tiger.

The meandering cow, such the stock character of the ‘realistic’ Hollywood film set in India, seems thankfully missing in Life of Pi. There is a goat but it does have an important cameo to play in film instead of just adding local “gee whiz we are in India” colour. In fact if you are an Indian, and a vegetarian, as many Indians are, be warned before you rush out to see this film. This film should come with a statutory warning – not for the squeamish vegetarian.

The colour and visual spendour of India tends to overwhelm any film that is set in India. And Life of Pi is no exception. Ang Lee pretty much admits as much to DNA when he says “the country overwhelms you, with the warmth, the culture and its beauty”.

Even in the hands of a director as astute as him, India feels over saturated, wide-eyed and eye-popping, prone to fortune cookie maxim. It’s a striking contrast to the richly detailed but so much more atmospheric Shanghai he created for Lust, Caution. That felt epic and intimate at the same time. This India feels Amar Chitra Katha – bold colours without much shading.

The book was widely regarded as unfilmable but author Yann Martel has said he never thought so. “The novel is full of contrast colours: the blue ocean, the white lifeboat, the brown boy, the orange and black tiger, the green island,” he told Hollywood Reporter. “And India is very visual.”

“It’s a very spiritual and fascinating country. It’s also very inspiring and colourful,” Ang Lee told TOI. But the India portion takes its Technicolor too literally. It feels weighed down by its own big fat marigold garlands. The conversations at the dining table are strangely stilted. Mama-ji’s oddball Peter Sellers routine is astounding, as in astoundingly anachronistically bad. And the whirlwind tour of Hinduism feels like a National Geographic special with some little-baby-Krishna bedtime tales and a thousand flickering diyas. And every homily is hammered home with a sledgehammer.

The problem is, as audience members, we are not being made to feel as if we are in India. Instead, we constantly feel that we are looking at India. But this is not a Passage to India film. Pi lives in India. He is supposedly so at home here he does not want to emigrate to Canada for a better life. But the film isn’t at home in India. It’s still stuck in a discovery of India mode. We are more forgiving of films like Pi because it’s mostly about Incredible India as opposed to Slumdog India but it’s an outsider’s gaze either way.

Martel disagrees.

“I like how they lingered on India,” he said. “They could’ve hurried through that and focused on the Pacific. It’s so visually stunning. It’s rare to have India portrayed in cinema — despite it being an economy of a billion people, it’s quite rare to have it shown in the screen as it is.”

But really it’s only when the film leaves behind the heat and dust of “visually stunning” India and moves to the open seas that it finally takes off for me. Then it’s a story of a boy and a tiger, man and nature and the film relaxes and feels at home even though both of its characters are out of their element in the middle of a vast ocean.

I stop being jarred by the hotch potch of accents. I stop wondering why people who should be normally speaking to each other in Tamil in Pondicherry are speaking strangely accented English instead as if they were all in Spoken English class. And I stop being annoyed by an array of characters, whether it’s swimming champion Mama-ji or the dancing school teacher, delivering their lines as if dredging up the wisdom of the ancients because we in India are just so in touch with our hoary cultural heritage we cannot say “pass the curry” without sounding like we are sharing a valuable nugget from the Rig Veda.

Its India connection is what makes Life of Pi of such interest to Indians. “It’s a masterpiece!! So much Tamil in it!! Don’t miss it,” gushed AR Rahman recently on a social networking site. But the book (and the film) is set in India by accident. Martel just happened to be here for six months in 1997 working on another novel that did not happen. The spark that gave rise to Pi came from a Brazilian novella about a castaway and a jaguar. He then added India to the mix because, as he told Outlook, “India lends itself very well to such a story because it has a lot of animals and a lot of religions.” So let’s not get carried away. This is not Octopussy but it’s not the “India as it is” that Martel thinks it is. The story is a twist on the classic immigrant story – about a boy who leaves home (which happens to be India) and then ends up, not in America or Canada or London, but in the middle of nowhere. That’s the real story and the far more interesting one.

“We will sail like Columbus,” says Pi’s father enthusiastically while announcing the decision to move to Canada.

Pi, dejected at the thought of leaving Pondicherry, responds, “But Columbus was looking for India.”

So it seems is Hollywood. Even when it is in India, it is still looking for India.

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Achieve Act: ‘Half-Baked Alternative’?


NBC Latino, News Report

U.S. Senators Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, on Tuesday introduced the ACHIEVE Act, an immigration bill for minors that would provide undocumented young immigrants with a W-1 visa if they meet certain requirements. Critics say the bill falls short of guaranteeing a pathway to citizenship.

Raul A. Reyes writes for NBC Latino that the ACHIEVE Act is a “an inadequate imitation” of the DREAM Act. “If Republicans are serious about immigration reform, they should dump this half-baked alternative to the real deal.”

Read more about the key differences between the ACHIEVE Act and the DREAM Act.

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U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Unveils Anti-Violence Plan for Hartford and Other Cities


NEW HAVEN, CT —  Flanked by city and state leaders,  United States Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday unveiled a “longevity” plan aimed at perpetrators of gun violence in cities across Connecticut.

Holder joined Gov. Dannel Malloy, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, city mayors and civic leaders across the state to launch Project Longevity, a program  that harnesses the resources of  important groups such as civic leaders, service providers, federal, state and local law enforcement to fight violence in urban areas.

Although crime statistics show an overall decrease in violent crime in Connecticut this year compared to 2011, violent crime persists, especially in the state’s largest cities.

This multi-jurisdictional plan is targeted at cities with known gang members, officials said.

“Project Longevity will send a powerful message to those who would commit violent crimes targeting their fellow citizens that such acts will not be tolerated and that help is available for all those who wish to break the cycle of violence and gang activity,” Holder said. “Today’s announcement underscores our commitment to working together — across levels of government and jurisdictional boundaries — to protect the American people from the crime that threatens too many neighborhoods and claims far too many innocent lives.”

According to Connecticut U.S. State Attorney David Fein, this strategy has worked to reduce gun violence in other major cities across the country, including Chicago and Cincinnati. Federal and state officials are committed to making it work in Connecticut.

This is the first time the strategy will be implemented on a state-wide basis. The project will start in New Haven and will then be implemented in Bridgeport and Hartford.

 

 

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Connecticut Charities Fret Over Danger Posed by Fiscal Cliff


By Ana Radelat

Washington – It’s the season for giving, but Connecticut’s charities are concerned Congress will act to dry up donations as lawmakers look to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.

To avoid raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, congressional Republicans are pressing to close tax loopholes instead — an idea some Democrats are embracing — and the charitable donation deduction is an attractive target.

Today, Americans taxpayer take a tax deduction for all the money they donate to a non-profit, organization — from their local church to the Sierra Club — as long as the donation doesn’t exceed 50 percent of   their income.

But there’s talk on Capitol Hill about ending this deduction, or at the very least  placing new limits on  the amount of money that can be deducted — especially by the wealthy, who are top donors to charity.

“That would really strain if not snap the books for a lot organizations,” said Jeffrey Shaw, director of public policy at the Connecticut Association of Nonprofits.

The association represents 525 Connecticut nonprofits, from the AARP to the YMCA. The parent organization of the CT Mirror, the Connecticut News Project, is also a member of the association.

Shaw said nonprofits receive most of their funding from individuals, although many raise money from foundations, government grants and other sources, too. The charitable deduction is an incentive for individuals to give, Shaw said.

But, to avoid a phenomena called the fiscal cliff, an end to Bush-era tax breaks just as deep federal spending cuts take effect — lawmakers have put the charitable donation deduction on the negotiating table as a way to raise federal revenue.

That’s bad news, said Shaw.

He said demand for the services Connecticut’s nonprofits provide skyrocketed during the recession, just as people had less money to donate to charities.

“Right now our numbers are rebounding and we don’t want to do anything that would inhibit that,” Shaw said.

The Connecticut Association of Nonprofits sent a letter to all members of the state’s congressional delegation last week, urging them to defend the charitable deduction.

Christopher Licata, press secretary for Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee with jurisdiction over tax issues, said the lawmaker wanted a comprehensive review of the tax code but “remains a strong supporter of the the charitable deduction and would like to see it continued.”

But Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said a proposal to cap all deductions, including the amount given to charity at $25,000 or $30,000 or some other dollar amount, has merit.

“It’s the most likely way to attract bipartisan support,” he said.

Blumenthal also said he also supported President Obama’s plan to limit deductions to no more than 28 percent of a taxpayer’s income.

“Both ideas are worthy of consideration,” Blumenthal said.

Steve Taylor, senior vice president of public policy for United Way Worldwide, said placing a dollar cap on deductions would be devastating.

“The impact won’t be on the wealthy, but on the people we help,” he said.

Taylor said the poor will face a “double whammy” as government programs are cut back and charities are limited in what they can do.

On December 4 and 5, Charitable Giving Coalition, a group that represents hundreds of national nonprofits,  will gather on Capitol Hill for “Protect Giving- D.C. Days” to try to persuade Congress to leave the charitable donation deduction alone.

Shaw of the Connecticut Association of Nonprofits said he’s not certain lobbying to defend the deduction will succeed.

“This is kind of a moving target right now,” Shaw said. “We’re hoping we’re not in the bulls-eye.”

Lawmakers eager to find revenues by closing loopholes hailed a survey released Monday by the Winston Group that said 65 percent of Americans agreed that the best way to avoid the fiscal cliff is to eliminate “special interest tax loopholes and deductions commonly used by the wealthy and cut government spending by a similar amount.”

Only 25 percent of the respondents supported raising taxes on the wealthy and cutting government spending by a similar amount, the poll said.

This was first published on www.ctmirror.org

 

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Obama’s Mandate to Help the Poor


By Edward Wyckoff Williams

President Obama’s landslide victory on Nov. 6 was won amid a culture war between the haves and have-nots. Republican candidate Mitt Romney openly admitted that he wasn’t “concerned about the very poor,” and he privately derided the “47 percent” of Americans who don’t pay federal income taxes, claiming they should learn to take responsibility and “care for their lives.” His running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, earned Tea Party bona fides by designing a budget plan that slashes billions from the social-safety net — cutting funding from programs such as SNAP (food stamps), housing assistance, Medicaid, Pell Grants and student loans.

The conservative platform of smaller government has been exacerbated in the years following the Bush-Cheney recession, which necessitated huge investments like the bank rescue and auto-industry bailout. Opposition to what the GOP framed as an overreach of government authority became Republican dogma, and permanent talking points of the Fox News and conservative talk radio chattering classes. But their well-scripted attacks only served to mask the economic hardships that lay underneath: namely, the millions of Americans who were without jobs, on the verge of losing homes and who, without government intervention, could have well experienced Depression era-like poverty conditions.

Enter Barack Obama.

The president’s $787 billion stimulus package included several expansions to existing antipoverty programs, including the Earned Income Tax Credit, SNAP and the Child Tax Credit. Obama expanded unemployment benefits to assist the long-term unemployed, and the Making Work Pay tax credit kept 6.9 million people above the poverty line in 2010 and lessened poverty for 32 million more.

President Obama’s Affordable Care Act increases Medicaid coverage to all adults with incomes up to 133 percent of the poverty level and will cover an additional 16 million people by 2019 — all of whom would have never qualified for Medicaid previously. Obama’s administration has also invested in education programs benefiting poor and low-income families by expanding the Head Start initiative to reach an additional 64,000 children, and doubled funding for Federal Pell Grants to college students.

As the fiscal cliff — which would slash funding to all of these programs by half — looms, President Obama is finally exhibiting the strength and defiance for which many progressives had been waiting. In his first press conference after winning re-election, the president declared, “I’ve got a mandate. I’ve got a mandate to help middle-class families and families that are working hard to try to get into the middle class. That’s my mandate. That’s what the American people said. They said, work really hard to help us.”

Critics such as Cornel West and Tavis Smiley have falsely claimed Obama wasn’t focused enough on the crisis of poverty, especially in the African-American community. Obama’s record proves otherwise. What may be a more fair critique is that the president has been reticent to discuss “poverty” and “the poor” as much as he has addressed “the middle-class” and “small business owners.”

Even Obama’s nuanced mention of those “working hard to try to get into the middle class” reflects an American mindset that is both dangerous and detrimental: the idea that real poverty — in its worst forms, at least — doesn’t actually exist here. Politicians have developed new ways to talk about the poor without referring to them as such — always careful not to insult. Except, of course, Romney, whose lack of tact may have been his undoing.

So what now?

Census data from 2012 shows that 97.3 million Americans fall into the category defined as low-income — roughly less than $45,000 a year for a family of four — and 49.1 million live below the poverty line. Together that accounts for 146.1 million people, or 48 percent of the entire U.S. population. Broken down by race and ethnicity, Hispanics were the most likely to be poor or low-income, at 73 percent, followed by African-Americans, Asians and whites.

Pretending the problem doesn’t exist simply won’t do.

Income inequality is at all-time high, and IRS data shows the top 1 percent of families garnered 93 percent of income gains in 2009 and 2010. Meanwhile corporate profits soared but average wage incomes declined. Republicans decried Obama’s plan as a “redistribution of wealth,” but voters clearly didn’t buy it. President Obama’s second-term agenda and the stature he displayed in last week’s press conference are emboldened by a re-election victory that saw him lead Romney by a 3 million-plus popular vote advantage.

NPR’s Frank James points out that elections have consequences — which include exit polls. More than 60 percent of voters agreed with Obama’s plan to increase taxes on the wealthy, and the president himself acknowledged this support came from many who did not vote for him. Exit polls also showed 55 percent of voters believe the economy favors the rich, and 53 percent said Romney’s proposals would disproportionately favor the wealthy. Obama’s campaign message won out: Assist those in need, and ask people at the top “to pay their fair share.”

The political capital Obama garnered with his re-election could quickly dissipate, making the fiscal-cliff negotiations key in setting the tone and rebalancing the power dynamic in his favor. Soon the political discourse could shift toward Republican talking points, the Benghazi 9/11 attack or the Israeli-Gaza conflict.

For a second-term president concerned about fulfilling promises as well as securing a legacy, Obama can’t afford to ignore the mandate he was so decisively given. Helping those at the bottom needs to be at the top of his list.

Edward Wyckoff Williams is a contributing editor at The Root. He is a columnist and political analyst, appearing on Al-Jazeera, MSNBC, CBS Washington and national syndicated radio. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

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Homeowner Wins Twice Against Freddie Mac


By Bill Sorem, Twin Cities Daily Planet/The UpTake
The nation’s largest mortgage company may finally be bending to public pressure. A St. Paul homeowner has scored a pair of victories against Freddie Mac that have allowed her to stay in her foreclosed home, but only after being misled in a move that’s called “dual tracking.”

Caylin Crawford’s problems began when she had a snowboarding accident and wasn’t able to work for a few months. Without the income, she realized she would have trouble making her monthly mortgage payments. U.S. Bank was the originator of her mortgage and Freddie Mac had purchased it on the secondary market. She called U.S. Bank and explained her situation. A U.S. Bank representative told her she could probably qualify for a HAMP (Home Affordable Modification Program) loan but she had to stop making payments, which she did.

While negotiations were in progress, U.S. Bank sent a letter on Oct 11, 2011 stating they would not proceed with foreclosure. But eight days later she got a notice saying her home would be sold at a sheriff’s auction.

The practice is called “dual tracking” and has been used against other Twin Cites homeowners by other lenders such as Citibank.

Crawford then began a frustrating process of trying to negotiate with U.S. Bank, where she found the company apparently did not want the negotiation to be on the record. She said the bank refused to reply to her email even though it had done so in the past. When she called U.S. Bank, representatives would ask if the call was being recorded. Crawford says if she would say yes, the bank representative would insist that the recorder be turned off or they would hang up. Crawford said other foreclosed homeowners she has talked to have run into the same problem with U.S. Bank.

U.S. Bank’s Vice President of Media Relations Nicole Garrison-Sprenger says, “both of those practices are not policies of U.S. Bank. To say so would be false.”

After about 10 months of negotiations, Crawford filed a wrongful foreclosure suit against U.S. Bank and Freddie Mac on August 2, 2012 — the day before her eviction hearing. She waited until the last minute in hopes that the bank or Freddie Mac would move.

Crawford said Freddie Mac turned the case over to a legal firm that charges $560 an hour and specializes in fighting these types of cases.

All this over a $40,000 mortgage of which Crawford had already paid off $12,000 in principal, in just four years.

U.S. Bank bought the home from itself at the foreclosure auction for the full $40,000. “They made quite a bit of money” from the sale said Crawford. Even though the home was sold, she was allowed to stay in it.

OccupyHomes MN Helps Out

After her home had been sold out from under her, Crawford contacted OccupyHomesMN in September 2012 with the objective of helping others avoid her situation. She was told that they needed to solve her problem first. At her first OccupyHomesMN meeting she started to tell her story when her mother jumped in and recounted the entire tale.

Crawford had an OccupyHomesMN barbeque in her back yard in September 2012 with about 50 people joining her. The all got out their cell phones and left a recorded message for John Lucas, Jr., Freddie Mac regional director in Chicago. Four days later she got a settlement offer. As part of the settlement, Freddie Mac would allow Crawford’s mother to buy the home and let Crawford stay there.

The settlement was a surprise for several reasons. Freddie Mac usually refuses to deal directly with homeowners, and it prohibits the sale of foreclosed homes to the owner or anyone related or otherwise that might allow the owner to live in the property. Freddie Mac representative Brad German confirmed that was the policy when he was contacted in September.

Pattern of problems

Freddie Mac and its sister agency Fannie Mae have come under increasing attack by those involved with mortgage or foreclosure problems. The UpTake has been following the Cruz Family of Minneapolis’ battle with Freddie Mac for months. Freddie Mac is now selling the Cruz house even though the issuing bank wants to rewrite the mortgage.

There are several common complaints about Freddie Mac we’ve seen from the many foreclosure cases The UpTake has covered this year. Those complaints include:

1. Refusal to lower principal of the loan even if the bank involved want to do so. Anthony Newby of Occupy Homes MN stated, “Under the helm of Edward DeMarco they have denied principal reduction to over 15 million homeowners and refused to work with those in foreclosure, all while using public money to carry out costly evictions.

2. Refusing to allow foreclosed home owner under any circumstance to return to their home. Crawford’s case is a notable exception.

3. General recalcitrance in dealing with home owners on any issue.

4. Excessive expenditure of public funds to carry out evictions. Minneapolis has spent hundreds of thousand dollars in police actions on one home (the Cruz Family) at the request of Freddie Mac and dozens of non-violent protestors have been charged with a range of crimes, incurring more city costs and legal costs to protestors.

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were created by the U.S. government to help and assist homeowners in securing loans. Freddie Mac’s web page page says it’s mission is “to stabilize the nation’s residential mortgage markets and expand opportunities for homeownership and affordable rental housing. Our statutory mission is to provide liquidity, stability and affordability to the U.S. housing market.” The site also says “We are focused on meeting the urgent liquidity needs of the U.S. residential mortgage market, lowering costs for borrowers and supporting the recovery of the housing market and U.S. economy.”

Crawford doesn’t think Freddie Mac is living up to its mission. It’s “clearly not acting in the best interest of our homeowners,” Crawford said, sitting outside her reclaimed home.

Freddie Mac’s initial indifference and misleading “dual tracking” approach caused Crawford to invest a lot of time and energy protecting her home. The good news is, it appears she is making real progress in keeping it.

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