Chile Rescue Operation Ends; Foreclosures Set New Record

BY Lea Winerman  October 14, 2010 at 9:39 AM EST


People celebrate in Santiago after the last of the 33 miners was rescued (JORGE AMENGUAL/AFP/Getty Images)

Less than 24 hours after the rescue operation began, the last of the 33 miners trapped underground for more than two months was pulled to safety Wednesday night. Shift foreman Luis Urzua, along with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, led the crowd in singing Chile’s national anthem.

The Wall Street Journal describes the technological and engineering innovations that made the rescue possible, and made the men’s life underground more comfortable:

The men wore clothing made with a bacteria-killing copper fiber, watched movies on a projector built into a cellphone, and communicated with rescuers over an ultra-flexible fiber-optic cable that maintains transmission capacity while twisting through rocky crags deep below ground.

Chilean officials assigned psychologists and a personal trainer by video conference to tend to the men.

Given the miners’ sensitive condition, nutritionists cooked food at high temperatures to guard against infection by bacteria in the minutes between its packaging and its journey down the tube.

Such care seems to have worked. Despite living on a starvation diet for 17 days until they were discovered in August, the men came out of the mine in much better health than many people expected they would, the New York Times reports:

>Defying grim predictions about how they would fare after two months trapped underground, many of the Chilean miners came bounding out of their rescue capsule on Wednesday as pictures of energy and health, able not only to walk, but, in one case, to leap around, hug everyone in sight and lead cheers.

With the technological operation over, analysis has begun. The rescue has burnished Chile’s worldwide reputation, says a Reuters analyst: “Already respected by investors looking for opportunities in largely left-leaning South America, Chile’s reputation for efficiency was enhanced by the technically complicated rescue operation on Wednesday.”

But questions remain over why the mine collapsed in the first place. President Pinera said Wednesday that the mine would never open again. CBC reports:

The Aug. 5 collapse brought the 125-year-old San Jose mine’s checkered safety record into focus and put Chile’s top industry — mining accounts for 40 percent of the Chilean state’s earnings — under close scrutiny. Many believe the collapse occurred because the mine was overworked and violated safety codes.

September Foreclosures Top 100,000 as Foreclosure Investigation Begins

It was a record-setting summer for foreclosures. More lenders repossessed homes between July and September 2010 than in any three months since the recession began. More than 288,000 homes were repossessed, according to the market research firm RealtyTrac. In September alone banks repossessed 102,134 homes — the first time that number has risen above 100,000 in a single month.

The news comes during a week in which foreclosures have been in the headlines for a different reason: Attorneys general from all 50 states are investigating fraudulent and missing loan paperwork, and many major banks have halted foreclosure processes for now. So the number of foreclosures is likely to dip in the next quarter, RealtyTrac CEO James Saccaccio said:

“We expect to see a dip in those bank repossessions — and possibly earlier stages of the foreclosure process — in the fourth quarter as several major lenders have halted foreclosure sales in some states while they review irregularities in foreclosure-processing documentation,” he said.

But Rick Sharga, a senior vice president at RealtyTrac, told the Associated Press that he expects those foreclosures to resume eventually.

“The bottom line is not that those properties won’t be repossessed,” he said. “They simply won’t be repossessed as quickly. We’re simply delaying the inevitable.”

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports on how the foreclosure paperwork scandal could affect the U.S. economy:

Beyond sloppy documents, the foreclosure debacle has exposed one of Wall Street’s little-known practices: For more than a decade, big lenders sold millions of mortgages around the globe at lightning speed without properly transferring the physical documents that prove who legally owned the loans.

Now, some of the pension systems, hedge funds and other investors that took big losses on the loans are seeking to use this flaw to force banks to compensate them or even invalidate the mortgage trades themselves.

Their collective actions, if successful, could blow a hole through the balance sheets of big banks and raise fundamental questions about the financial system, financial analysts and a lawmaker said.

U.S., NATO Facilitating Afghan-Taliban Talks

U.S. and NATO forces are facilitating peace talks between Afghan and senior Taliban leaders by allowing senior Taliban leaders to come to Kabul for the meetings, according to reports from the New York Times and Washington Post Thursday.

The Times reported:

While the talks involve senior members of the Taliban, officials emphasized that they were preliminary, and that they could not tell how serious the insurgents — or the weak government of President Hamid Karzai — were about reaching an accord.

The news comes as five soldiers from NATO-led forces were killed in three separate attacks in Afghanistan Thursday, one day after six others were killed in three attacks Wednesday.