07 30 2016
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The Wake of Vanport
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  • Russian hackers likely responsible for hacking attack on Clinton HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Giddy if exhausted, Hillary Clinton embarked on a post-convention Rust Belt bus tour just hours after becoming the first female presidential nominee of a major political party. The celebratory mood quickly evaporated amid fresh revelations that hackers had breached a program used by her campaign and Republican nominee Donald Trump promised to sharpen his barbs. "Remember this," Trump said during a rally Friday in Colorado Springs, Colorado. "Trump is going to be no more Mr. Nice Guy." And for the first time he encouraged his supporters' anti-Clinton chants of "lock her up." "I've been saying let's just beat her on Nov. 8," Trump said, "but you know what? I'm starting to agree with you." About an hour later, Clinton aides acknowledged that a hacking attack that exposed Democratic Party emails also reached into a computer system used by her own campaign. The FBI said it was working to determine the "accuracy, nature and scope" of the cyberattacks. Campaign spokesman Nick Merrill said the newly disclosed breach affected a Democratic National Committee data analytics program used by the campaign and other organizations. Outside experts found no evidence that the campaign's "internal systems have been compromised," Merrill said, but he gave no details on the program or nature of the attacks. Partnerships with modern e-commerce companies can allow sophisticated tracking, categorization and identification of website visitors and voters. President Barack Obama and cybersecurity experts have said Russia was almost certainly responsible for the DNC hack. The House Democratic campaign committee reported Friday that its information had been accessed. The developments followed the leaking of DNC emails earlier in the week that pointed to a pro-Clinton bias by party officials during her primary contest against Bernie Sanders. In the furor that followed, party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz resigned just as Democrats launched their convention. Clinton and her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, will attempt to return attention to their positive economic message on Saturday, with campaign stops through economically struggling areas of Pennsylvania and Ohio. "When we take that oath of office next January, we know we can make life better. We know we can create more good jobs," she told voters gathered at an outside market in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Clinton cited an economic analysis by economist Mark Zandi, a former economic adviser to 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain, that found more than 10 million jobs could be created in her first term if her economic proposals were put in place. Zandi's analysis of Trump's plans found they would cost the country 3.5 million jobs and lead to a "lengthy recession." Joined on the bus tour by her husband, Bill Clinton, Kaine and his wife, Anne Holton, Clinton stopped at a toy and plastics manufacturer in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, where she and Kaine cast Trump as a con artist out for his own gain. "We don't resent success in America but we do resent people who take advantage of others in order to line their own pockets," Clinton said. Trump is also focusing on Ohio and Pennsylvania, two states where he might make headway with blue-collar white men. That group of voters has eluded Clinton and may be a hard sell after a Democratic convention that heavily celebrated racial and gender diversity. Clinton is playing up economic opportunity, diversity and national security. Democrats hammered home those themes this week with an array of politicians, celebrities, gun-violence victims, law enforcement officers and activists of all races and sexual orientation. Their goal is to turn out the coalition of minority, female and young voters that twice elected Obama while offsetting expected losses among the white men drawn to Trump's message. Democrats continued contrasting their optimistic message with the more troubled vision of the state of the nation presented by Trump and others at the GOP convention a week earlier. Kaine called the "very dark and negative" event a "journey through Donald Trump's mind." "That's a very frightening place," he told thousands of supporters in Philadelphia. Clinton told voters that they faced a "stark choice," calling the coming election the most important one in her lifetime. "This is a moment of reckoning for our country. I don't recognize the country that Donald Trump describes," she said.___Lemire reported from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.
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  • SEATTLE (AP) — Genetically modified wheat not approved for sale or commercial production in the United States has been found growing in a field in Washington state, agriculture officials said Friday, posing a possible risk to trade with countries concerned about engineered food. The Food and Drug Administration says genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are safe and little scientific concern exists about the safety of those on the market. But critics say not enough is known about their risks, and they want GMOs labeled so people know what's in their food. Several Asian countries temporarily banned U.S. wheat imports after genetically modified wheat was found unexpectedly in a field on an Oregon farm in 2013. It also popped up in a field at a university research center in Montana in 2014. It wasn't immediately clear how altered wheat cropped up in Washington. But the U.S. Agriculture Department said there is no evidence it has entered the market. If it did, the FDA concluded that "it is unlikely that the wheat would present any safety concerns if present in the food supply," the department said. A farmer discovered 22 plants in an unplanted field, and the wheat was developed to be resistant to the herbicide known as Roundup, created by seed giant Monsanto, the USDA said. An agency spokeswoman did not know where in the state it was found. Federal officials said they were working with the farmer to ensure that none of the modified wheat is sold. Out of caution, the agency said it is holding and testing the farmer's full wheat harvest, but so far it has not found GMOs. The plants are a type of wheat that had been evaluated in limited field trials in the Pacific Northwest from 1998 to 2001 but never commercialized, Monsanto said in a statement. It said the type found in Washington state is similar to the one discovered in Oregon three years ago; it has the same inserted DNA but in a different location. No variety of genetically engineered wheat has been approved for commercial use or production in the U.S. GMOs are plants or animals that have had genes copied from other plants or animals inserted into their DNA. Most genetically engineered crops are corn and soybeans eaten by livestock or made into popular processed food ingredients like cornstarch, soybean oil or high fructose corn syrup. Only a handful of modified fruits and vegetables are available, including Hawaiian papaya, some zucchini and squash and a small percentage of sweet corn. The FDA also has approved for consumption a genetically engineered salmon that would grow faster than traditional salmon, but it's not yet available in grocery stores. South Korea said Friday that it will inspect U.S. wheat imports for genetically modified wheat, the Yonhap News Agency reported. The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said it has asked the USDA for information on the unapproved wheat and inspection methods. The USDA said it has validated a test that Monsanto developed for the herbicide-resistant wheat, which would be available to trading partners. "Trading partners will get the tests. I believe that once they have those in place, they'll continue buying," said Glen Squires, CEO of the Washington Grain Commission, a state agency that represents wheat farmers. "We don't anticipate any major disruptions." The USDA also said it has beefed up oversight of genetically engineered field trials and now requires developers to apply for a permit for those involving GMO wheat starting this year. In 2014, genetically modified wheat plants were found at a university research center in Huntley, Montana, where it was legally tested by Monsanto in the early 2000s. The plants in eastern Oregon were found in a field that had never conducted such tests, and the USDA closed its investigation two years ago unable to determine how the wheat got there. Different strains were found in each state. The Washington Association of Wheat Growers and the Washington State Agriculture Department referred questions to federal authorities.
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  • Six current or former state employees were charged Friday with misconduct and other crimes in the Flint water crisis 
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  • Hillary Clinton cast herself as a unifier for divided times, an experienced leader steeled for a volatile world 
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In the aftermath of more than 2.5 million foreclosures, the Federal Housing Administration is now offering a homeownership program that will put previously troubled borrowers on a fast-tracked return to the home ownership market. The new program, known as "Back to Work – Extenuating Circumstance," cuts the standard three-year waiting period to only 12 months.

According to Charles Coulter, HUD's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Single Family Housing, "We understand that families occasionally experience financial difficulties that are simply beyond their control. We already have a policy allowing for exceptions to this waiting period when there is an extraordinary life event. This Mortgagee Letter is a targeted expansion of that policy.

"As part of FHA's ongoing mission," Coulter continued, "we want to make sure that qualified borrowers are not being unnecessarily shut out of the market. We 're looking forward to working with our industry partners to strengthen our housing market, to protect FHA's insurance fund, and to make certain access to credit remains available for future generations of homeowners."

That's good news for borrowers who lost their home because of specific financial hardships but can now demonstrate they have regained previously lost financial ground.  The list of eligible financial hardships reads like a list of housing crisis woes:

Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy

Deed-in-lieu

Forbearance

Foreclosure

Loan modification

Loss of income, employment or both that totaled at least 20 percent of previous earnings for at least six months, including copies of applicable termination notices or changes in employment status

Pre-foreclosure sales

Short sales 

Additionally, consumers must also meet other verifiable measures to participate in the program:

Proof of borrower's current income – usually W-2 forms or federal tax returns that show the desired mortgage would be affordable and sustainable;

Credit history pre- and post the eligible hardship event that is free from late payments or other major credit issues, including rental housing payments  and accounts delinquent by 30 days or more;

Credit score of at least 500; and

Housing counseling by a HUD-approved counselor at least 30 days but no more than six months before submitting an FHA application.

For consumers meeting all of these criteria as well as other standing FHA mortgage guidelines, the Back to Work program is now available nationwide through FHA-approved lenders.  Once participating lenders determine that mortgage applicants meet all eligibility and policy criteria, the same 3.5 percent minimum FHA down payment requirement will apply. Mortgage insurance and closing costs will also apply.

Only one FHA program is ineligible for the Back to Work program: reverse mortgages.

Earlier research by the Center for Responsible Lending found that more than 2.5 million homes were lost to foreclosure during the housing crisis. According to CoreLogic, a firm providing data and analysis to financial services companies and real estate professionals, the number of homes in some state of foreclosure dropped below the million-mark as of July 2013, to 949,000. This figure also represents a drop of 32 percent since July 2012.

Underwater mortgages, properties that are now worth less than their purchase price, also continue to haunt housing recovery. As of May 2013, Core Logic, the firm specializing in residential property information, found that 11 states had more than 1-in-5 underwater homes. The states with the seven highest numbers of underwater properties were Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, California and Illinois.  

As CRL has stated before, the housing crisis is not yet over. But programs that enable former troubled borrowers to regain the pride of home ownership and the chance to build family wealth have to be good news.

Charlene Crowell is a communications manager with the Center for Responsible Lending.

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