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The Pitch Room


Need to Know brings you the stories that we think are the most relevant, thought-provoking, and intriguing.

Now, it’s your turn to tell us: What do you need to know? What issues do you think should be explored, dissected, exposed and reported right here? What are the conversations that we ought to be having? Let us know — we’re all ears.

In the weeks to come, we’ll build you a fancier feedback area (maybe you’d like to be able to vote on each other’s pitches, for example?).

But for now, drop your pitch, news tip, or story suggestion in the comments below.  We’re listening.


  • James Byrnes

    I finally recovered sufficently from the passing of Bill Moyers’ Journal and NOW to give Need To Know a shot. I made it through the Gulf and renewable energy pieces and was thinking, this isn’t bad. Then came Israel’s attack on the aid flotilla, the wimpiest piece of “fair and balanced” journalism I’ve been suckered into watching for a long time.

    Here’s what I need to know. Why did Israel find it necessary to board the flotilla ships while it was dark? Why was it necessary to do it in international waters? Why couldn’t they have waited till daylight and until the ships were in territorial waters where Israel might have had at least some plausible justification for intervening? And why was it necessary to stage a “raid” rather than a traditional “shot across the bow” and an order to halt or face consequences, followed by boarding and inspection? Never mind the collective punishment being inflicted on the people (and CHILDREN!) of Gaza.

    These ships were unarmed. Quite frankly, I sympathize with the people of the flotilla and wish I had been among them. And, had I been there, I can only hope that I’d have had the courage to stand up to the invaders.

    Here’s something else I’d like to know. Israel’s vastly superior military easily allows them to put a stranglehold on Gaza. It’s no contest. But how have they managed to strangle the U.S. media as well?

    Lastly, a “coincidence” that I think needs looking into: Israel is said to be the U.S.’s closest ally; Israel has lots of enemies; so, we are told, does the U.S. Any correlation there?

    The whole affair stinks and you know it. If you can’t speak truth to power, get out of the business.

  • Anonymous

    I watched the segment on Bloomberg suit against the FED to disclose which banks are receiving part of the $13 Trillion of taxpayer money. I work in finance and read a lot. I try to connect the dots, the links between stories that are tied together. I built a new home, to downsize from a property that was and is being taxed at the high bubble level. I could not stay in the home, the taxes are nearly as much as my pension from a Fortune 500 Company of 30 years (half of pension stolen in the 90′s). Unfortunately, I had not sold the old overtaxed home before I elected to build the new retirement home. Starting in the Spring of 2007, we built the home and it was complete in May 2008. The Construction completion loan was about $60,000 less than what it cost for me to build, the appraisal was used to finance the loan, with the idea of the loan only being temporary and we put the old home up for sale immediately. As I right this, the old home has not sold, I tried to refinance the new home with the lower interest rate and the value of the home, appraisal wise, the second in 12 months, dropped 38% in 12 months and I cold not take advantage of the lower interest rates. Basically, from what the new home cost to build, not a mansion, the value dropped 50% in 12 months. The cost per square foot went from $125 a square foot to $70 a square foot, about the same as a manufactured mobil home. I tried to take advantage of the Home Affordable Modification Program, HAMP part of TARP. I sent an inquiry to Wells Fargo, the servicer of my Fannie Mae loan, and received a “forebearance offer” that halved the mortgage payment for six months, on the seventh month the six months of short payments (half the mortgage) was due in a lump sum along with a expense and charges equal to a full month of mortgage payment, a 33% interest rate. Ie, say $2000 was my mortgage monthly payment, the “forebearance” was $1000 a month for six months, the seventh month, $10,000 was due in a lump sum, $6000 from the deferred mortgage payment, $2000 for the seventh month and $2000 in charges and interest. Wells Fargo used a very deceptive way of presenting the forebearance, the amounts were odd numbers, for example, a mortgage payment is not even numbers, ie $2458.64 and the forebearance amount would be $1226.32 for six months, and the lump sum due would be $12,275.20 multiples of the normal monthly mortgage payment. I thought, what kind of HAMP Federal program is this. The two page forebearance document had no disclosure of the amount of charges and very strong words “One day late, we start foreclosure”. I called Wells Fargo, I asked what kind of Federal HAMP program charges 33% interest, immediately, the Wells Fargo rep said “Oh, this is a Wells Fargo program, if you don’t like it, send it back. I kept it and thought to myself, there must be a better way to take advantage of the lower interest rates less than 5%.
    I applied for a mortgage loan with another company, not trusting Wells Fargo. An Appraisal was ordered, and came in 33% lower than the appraisal of just 12 months earlier. The ‘New rules” of appraisals, driven by the banks, would not allow me to talk to the appraiser. I thought, how could the value of a new home, I built mainly from Home Depot and authorized and scrutinized every payment drop 33% in 12 months? I was locked out of re-financing. Wells Fargo continued to call me, wanting me to enter a HAMP agreement. I put them off for 4 months, until after the refinance effort fell through with the other company because of “new appraisal rules”. I answered the phone and the Well Fargo rep, said I had already qualified for the HAMP trial period (I was making full payments), and it would be just a quick qualification if I would send in my tax returns, w2′s, payroll stubs, and assets like 401K’s and savings. I sent the information in November 1st. I called toward the end of November for an update, the Loss Mitigation department at Wells Fargo told me they had my application along with all my finanical information including copies of my 1040 tax return, and my case had been assigned a “negotiator” who would review my case and it would take 45 to 60 working days before I would be notified. I called back in December, talked to the Loss MItigation department and still the same response, “your case has been assigned a Negotiator”. They also gave me another number that I called, it was NOT the loss Mitigation department. The lady looked at my account and told me “You have been declined HAMP”. I asked why and she did not have the reason. So I called back to the Loss MItigation department, asked if my case was still active. They told me yes that the negotiator is still working on my case for HAMP. I called again for an update in January, they advised me that they were “recording my call” and I said OK I am to (recording). The Wells Fargo rep said “If you are recording this call, I cannot talk to you and hung up. “I was on my cell phone, had no way of recording the call driving. I called back again and when they said they were recording the call, I said I am to, they again said that they could not talk to me, if I was recording the call, I asked why can they record and I can’t, they hung up.
    In January, I called again, told me that the negotiator was still working on my case, 45 to 60 days and that I needed to send in the w2′s, paystubs and my financial information immediately or the case would be dismissed. I Faxed and Sent overnight all the financial information and called them and they confirmed that I was still in the loop. I was crusing the internet and read all the horror stories of Wells Fargo and other banks who were jerking aroung HAMP applicants. I called in February, assured by Wells Fargo, the negotiator would notify me in the 45 to 60 period which was the first of March. Part of the HAMP procedure was sending in short payments, less than the full amount. I chose NOT to do that. I sent in the full mortgage payment. In March, I received my Wells Fargo statement, the payments in January and February, were “NOT APPLIED” to my mortgage. I called the loss mitigation department and asked why the mortgage had not been applied to my mortgage and sent to Fannie Mae. She had no answer. I asked where was the money deposited, Wells Fargo said in a “Cash Account”. I asked what they were doing with my Mortgage payments? No answer. I had the experience with Wells Fargo where they raised the escrow amount and also did NOT APPLY my mortgage payment to my mortgage loan. So the HAMP trial period, automatically put the money in a cash account and Fannie Mae did not get paid and Wells Fargo was using my money to “make money”. They assured that it did not affect my credit. When I obtained the credit report, there was OK on everything, EXCEPT the listing of Wells Fargo where is was blank or a special entry. Kind of a flag to lenders but the credit score was still excellent. A week later, I received the denial letter and my choices were Shortsale of In lieu of Deed I could turn over the new home to Wells Fargo. The reason, I had been turned down for HAMP because the new home was not my “Primary Residence” even though we lived in it but had to commute 300 miles and were living in our old home, to work, and the old home was not selling. I did not see what the definition of a “Primary Residence” in the HAMP documentation, and found it in the Internal Revenue Websites, where you bank, where you receive your paycheck. So, in November, based on my HAMP application, Wells Fargo declined my HAMP but did not tell me until March, four months later, asking for updated financial information and assuring me that my HAMP application was still active? Wells Fargo Lied to me.
    A few months later, I called Wells Fargo to see if I could take advantage of the 125% new rule and the Wells Fargo loan officer looked up my account, said you were short on your mortgage payment and cannot apply for the lower interest rate loans for 12 months. I told him that I did make full payments but he said, their Wells Fargo’s system said I was short. I called the Loss Mitigation at Wells Fargo and they reviewed it and said, OH, we will correct that negative credit report, you did make full payment during the HAMP trial period. I am glad I did not send in their trial period as it would have prevented me from refinancing. So now I sit, waiting, hopefully, I will be able to lower my mortgage payment with a lower interest without lots of cost.
    Over the past 17 months, I have learned a lot. The HAMP program is a horrible program and 1.8 million people lost their homes in shortsales and foreclosures and one million the first quarter of 2010. Normally there are 100,000 foreclosures nationally, today ONE MILLION. The employee Assistance program to help working employees has employed people who have no place to live, their credit is shot, they have no place to live.
    Well, sorry about the length of this note, but I have put the dots together and we have a major crisis in housing, and the HAMP program facilitated by the banks are enabling people to lose their homes, not save them. I have written my Congressman and other Congressmen after watching the CSPAN Congressional hearing with the bankers on why, out of $75 Billion allocated for HAMP loans, only $300 million has been spent and One Million people have shortsaled or foreclosed. The banks were asked if they were losing money in foreclosures and making more money with a foreclosure than by helping people meet their mortgage payments. The six major bankers including Wells Fargo said they lose money in foreclosures. I think the bankers are lying through ommission, not telling the whole story during a shortsale where before the new owner takes over, the banks really make money, and lots of it via the FDIC loss guarantees. FDIC denies it but Wells Fargo in the first quarter made $2.1 Billion in profit while processing approximately 250,000 homes in shortsales and foreclosures. If they lose money, how can they make so much profit? In our community of 50,000, where lots of new homes were built over the last 10 years, we have about 13,000 homes, and 5,000 properties are in foreclosure and another 4000 are in pre-foreclosure. This include building lots. Since May of 2008, we have had no offers and the banks are not lending to buyers who want a large lot that could be subdivided.
    What is going on, is that we will not be able to sell our old home, unless we accept what our property was worth in 1980. The taxes have not lowered that much, about 10% with the mil levy having been increased 20% to cover the shortfalls in taxes.
    I am sending you links to various websites that support the fact that the banks are MAKING money by helping people lose their homes instead of helping them keep their homes.
    The first one is a couple of men who disclose how the FDIC is paying the banks at 80% of the par value of the original loan that One West and other banks like Wells Fargo have taken over the mortgages of the failed banks and are getting checks from the tax payer supported FDIC (even though the banks contribute to the FDIC, they run to the FED if they run out of money). I have read somewhere, the FED has spent $1.3 Trillion but not sure where. The Bloomberg story adds validity to what One West and Wells Fargo are doing, making MONEY from shortsales and foreclosures.
    Here is the link:

    The FDIC put out a press release disputing the “sweetheart deal” with the banks who took over the mortgage assets of failed banks like One West and Wells Fargo and Bank of America.

    Here is another investigative reporter who found out from two US Treasury officials that the HAMP program is to “shore up the banks assets” and NOT to help home owners to keep their homes:

    By the way, the two guys you tube has had over 1.5 million hits and there is no evidence other than a dispute from the FDIC that is filled with “gobblygook”. Like my grandmother always said, “Follow the Money: and you will get your answer. Wells Fargo is on the way to make more than $8 Billion in profit while putting homeowners at more risk with lies and deceit.

    Here is the CSPAN July meeting with the bankers to find out why so few HAMP home loan modifications had been granted by the serving banks like Wells Fargo. The lying through omission and I think the Congressmen know it.

    I have written and called each Congressman that appeared in this video and told their staff to share the “Sweetheart One West” deal.

    Wells Fargo HAMP horror stories, more out there,

    I have called all my Congressmen when I found out that HAMP according the the US Treasury is a deceptive program to shore up the banks assets, not to help homeowners. If true, we need to replace the Congress in mass.

    I got a call last week from my Congressman’s office. They would like to talk to me. They did say “They did not have anything to do with HAMP” . I really don’t give a damn who created it, all I know is there are 4000 homes in a town of 50,000 in foreclosure TODAY. The foreclosures, the banks are hurting this economy, affects jobs, effects transfers, affects confidence of consumers, affects the Senior trying to downsize and move to a warmer climate, builders, and the economic well being.

    The FDIC payments through the back door with guarantees to the banks as in the video is killing the taxpayer, who is paying for it, but cannot sell his home.

    First it was tax reform to get to home equity, the destruction of leadership training organizations the weakening of labor bargaining from 35 million members to 17 million, the theft of defined benefit pensions from 125,000 to less than 16,000 today mainly Unions and Federal, and now biggest attack by the USA financial organizations, the number one asset of the average amerian, the home and the equity it represents.
    Sorry for the length of this note. I was a fan of Bill Moyers. I hope you will do something with this. Like all reporting, you can report something but it is not a requirement to offer a solution. In the case of the HAMP scam, a good intention program to help people save their homes, that has been bastardized by the servicing banks, is supporting the Plutocracy theory, that is real, and people are not aware of it, especially the cynical senior citizen and those who think that people who are losing their homes are deadbeats and deserve to lose their home.
    But, when I ask the Senior if he has any plans to sell his 30 or 40 year old home and move to a warmer climate, and point out there are hundreds of homes in foreclosure, 2 to 10 years old, and he would have a dog a chance selling his old home unless he accepts $20 a square foot, he is no longer smiling much.
    Thanks for what you do, hopefully you will do a story on the plight of the people who are losing their homes, the Bloomberg suit will be successful exposing the FDIC payments for shortsales and foreclosures via the taxpayer, to banks, who enable taxpayers to shortsale and foreclose.

    By the way, 3 million foreclosures in 2009 and 2010 is probably about 12 million people while the banks like Wells Fargo are making $2.1 Billion a quarter. Follow the money.