07-24-2024  2:37 pm   •   PDX and SEA Weather

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NORTHWEST NEWS

Wildfires Threaten Communities in the West as Oregon Fire Closes Interstate, Creates Its Own Weather

Firefighters in the West are scrambling as wildfires threaten communities in Oregon, California and Washington. A stretch of Interstate 84 connecting Oregon and Idaho in the area of one of the fires was closed indefinitely Tuesday. New lightning-sparked wildfires in the Sierra near the California-Nevada border forced the evacuation of a recreation area, closed a state highway and were threatening structures Tuesday.

In Washington State, Inslee's Final Months Aimed at Staving off Repeal of Landmark Climate Law

Voters in Washington state will decide this fall whether to keep one of the country's more aggressive laws aimed at stemming carbon pollution. The repeal vote imperils the most significant climate policy passed during outgoing Gov. Jay Inslee's three terms, and Inslee — who made climate action a centerpiece of his short-lived presidential campaign in the 2020 cycle — is fighting hard against it. 

SneakerWeek 2024 Launches in Pioneer Courthouse Square July 26

The event brings together industry experts, BIPOC designers and sneaker enthusiasts.

Money From Washington's Landmark Climate Law Will Help Tribes Face Rising Seas, Climate Change

Tens of millions of dollars raised by a landmark climate law in Washington state will go to Native American tribes that are at risk from climate change and rising sea levels to help them move to higher ground, install solar panels, buy electric vehicles and restore wetlands. The Quinault Indian Tribe on the Olympic Peninsula is getting million to help relocate its two main villages to higher ground, away from the tsunami zone and persistent flooding.

NEWS BRIEFS

Dr. Vinson Eugene Allen and Dusk to Dawn Urgent Care Make a Historical Mark as the First African American Owned Chain of Urgent Care Facilities in the United States

Dusk to Dawn Urgent Care validated as the First African American Owned Urgent Care in the nation with chain locations ...

Washington State Black Legislators Endorse Kamala Harris for President

Members of the Washington State Legislative Black Caucus (LBC) are proud to announce their enthusiastic endorsement of Vice President...

Oregon Housing and Community Services Awarded More Than $11 Million to Increase Energy Efficiency in Affordable Housing

Part of a nearly 0 million Climate Pollution Reduction Grant awarded to Oregon ...

Merkley, Senators Urge VA to Expand Access to Medical Cannabis for America’s Veterans

Senators’ letter follows DEA’s recommended rescheduling of cannabis from earlier this year ...

Federal Appeals Court Declines to Restore Voting Rights in Mississippi

Thousands of Mississippians Face “Especially Cruel” Disenfranchisement Scheme ...

Oregon fire is the largest burning in the US. Officials warn an impending storm could exacerbate it

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A wildfire burning in Oregon that's kicking smoke into neighboring states is now the largest active blaze in the U.S., authorities said, and fire crews are bracing for a storm late Wednesday that's expected to bring lightning, strong winds and the risk of flash floods. ...

Wildfires threaten communities in the West as Oregon fire closes interstate, creates its own weather

BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) — Firefighters in the West are scrambling as wildfires threaten communities in Oregon, California and Washington, with at least one Oregon fire so large that it is creating its own weather. Interstate 84 in eastern Oregon was closed in both directions Tuesday...

Chiefs set deadline of 6 months to decide whether to renovate Arrowhead or build new — and where

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — The Chiefs have set a deadline of six months from now to decide on a plan for the future of Arrowhead Stadium, whether that means renovating their iconic home or building an entirely new stadium in Kansas or Missouri. After a joint ballot initiative with the...

Missouri governor says new public aid plan in the works for Chiefs, Royals stadiums

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said Thursday that he expects the state to put together an aid plan by the end of the year to try to keep the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals from being lured across state lines to new stadiums in Kansas. Missouri's renewed efforts...

OPINION

The 900-Page Guide to Snuffing Out American Democracy

What if there was a blueprint for a future presidential administration to unilaterally lay waste to our constitutional order and turn America from a democracy into an autocracy in one fell swoop? That is what one far-right think tank and its contributors...

SCOTUS Decision Seizes Power to Decide Federal Regulations: Hard-Fought Consumer Victories Now at Risk

For Black and Latino Americans, this power-grab by the court throws into doubt and potentially weakens current agency rules that sought to bring us closer to the nation’s promises of freedom and justice for all. In two particular areas – fair housing and...

Minding the Debate: What’s Happening to Our Brains During Election Season

The June 27 presidential debate is the real start of the election season, when more Americans start to pay attention. It’s when partisan rhetoric runs hot and emotions run high. It’s also a chance for us, as members of a democratic republic. How? By...

State of the Nation’s Housing 2024: The Cost of the American Dream Jumped 47 Percent Since 2020

Only 1 in 7 renters can afford homeownership, homelessness at an all-time high ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

Puerto Rico bans discrimination against those who wear Afros and other hairstyles on diverse island

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico’s governor on Wednesday signed a law that prohibits discrimination against people wearing Afros, curls, locs, twists, braids and other hairstyles in the racially diverse U.S. territory. The move was celebrated by those who had long demanded...

Body camera video focused national attention on an Illinois deputy's fatal shooting of Sonya Massey

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A riveted nation watched video released this week of a sheriff's deputy fatally shooting Sonya Massey, a 36-year-old Black woman who called 911 for assistance, in her Illinois home. Sean Grayson, 14 months into his career as a deputy sheriff for Sangamon...

Harris asks for 2024 support from women of color during an address at a historically Black sorority

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris told members of the historically Black sorority Zeta Phi Beta on Wednesday that “we are not playing around” and asked for their help in electing her president in November. “In this moment, I believe we face a choice between two...

ENTERTAINMENT

Book Review: East Texas P.I. turns vigilante in funny and savage 'Sugar on the Bones'

Minnie Polson was in some sort of trouble, so a friend recommended the private eye firm of Hap Collins, his wife Brett, and their pal Leonard Pine. But when they meet, Minnie doesn’t like their attitude, and they don’t like hers. Hours after they agree to part company, Minnie’s...

Book Review: The Knights of Camelot search for a new king in Lev Grossman’s 'The Bright Sword'

A rudderless nation, lost in uncertainty, searches for its next commander in chief. There’s an uneasy sense that the country’s glory days have passed, and that a monumental turn in history is coming — for good or for ill. How do you find a leader to unite such a fractured, polarized land? ...

Music Review: Glass Animals weave heartstring-tugging vignettes on new album

Love songs have existed for millennia but leave it to Glass Animals to give them a refreshing spin, where love isn't always a honeymoon phase or heartbreak — it's much, much more. The British indie-pop band, known for hits like 2014's “Gooey” or 2020's viral “Heat Waves," has...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

This is one of the oldest games in North America. You've likely never heard of it

CHOCTAW, Miss. (AP) — As the drummers walk onto the field, the players behind them smack their hickory sticks to...

Can you guess Olympians' warmup songs? World's top athletes share their favorite tunes

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Curious about which songs are fueling the Olympians competing in Paris starting this month?...

Republican leaders urge colleagues to steer clear of racist and sexist attacks on Harris

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican leaders are warning party members against using overtly racist and sexist attacks...

Meta takes down thousands of Facebook, Instagram accounts running sextortion scams from Nigeria

Meta said Wednesday that it has taken down about 63,000 Instagram accounts in Nigeria running sexual extortion...

Puerto Rico bans discrimination against those who wear Afros and other hairstyles on diverse island

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico’s governor on Wednesday signed a law that prohibits discrimination...

Farmers in Africa say their soil is dying and chemical fertilizers are in part to blame

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — When Benson Wanjala started farming in his western Kenya village two and a half decades...

Alan Zibel and Curt Anderson, the Associated Press

WASHINGTON – A joint investigation by every state and the District of Columbia could force mortgage companies to settle allegations that they used flawed documents to foreclose on hundreds of thousands of homeowners.
It could take months, at least, for any settlement to be reached. But legal experts say lenders could be forced to accept an independent monitor to ensure they follow state foreclosure laws. The banks could also be subject to financial penalties and be forced to pay some people whose foreclosures were improperly handled.
The Skanner News Video here
For banks, "the most efficient way for them to get out from under this is to settle across the board," said Kathleen Engel, a law professor at Suffolk University in Boston.
Employees of several major lenders have acknowledged in depositions that they signed thousands of foreclosure documents without reading them as required by state laws.
"This is not simply about a glitch in paperwork," Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who's leading the probe announced Wednesday, said in a statement. "It's also about some companies violating the law and many people losing their homes."
At a news conference, Miller said the states might be open to alternatives to financial penalties for the banks. They might, for example, agree instead to have lenders step up their efforts to help people reduce their loan payments so they can avoid foreclosure.
The document problems could prolong the housing downturn if many home buyers become unwilling to purchase foreclosed homes. But for a few months anyway, the problems could help prop up prices, because fewer low-priced foreclosed homes will be for sale.
Analysts don't expect many people who lost homes to foreclosure to recover them.
The industry has begun to respond to pressure from state and federal officials. JPMorgan Chase & Co. said Wednesday it would extend its review of its foreclosure cases to 41 states — doubling the number of its cases under review to 115,000. JPMorgan had previously said it was halting foreclosures in the 23 states where foreclosures must be approved by a judge.
This week, GMAC Mortgage, a unit of Ally Financial Inc., said it had hired legal and accounting firms to review its foreclosure procedures in all 50 states. GMAC has halted some foreclosures in 23 states. Bank of America has done so in all 50.
And Wells Fargo & Co. has said it would review pending foreclosures for potential defects. Wells says it's discovered no problems.
In their announcement Wednesday, the state officials said they would review evidence that documents were signed by mortgage company employees who didn't verify the information in them. They also said many documents appeared to have been signed without a notary public witnessing that signature — a violation of state law.
Attorneys general have taken the lead in responding to the revelations. State officials, not the federal government, enforce foreclosure laws, which vary by state.
Not all attorneys general have identical powers to investigate. Without clear evidence of a crime, they usually file lawsuits to force businesses to stop actions or to pay damages to wronged consumers.
The filing of false documents in court can be prosecuted as perjury. Any lawyers involved in improper foreclosures could suffer sanctions or lose their law licenses for unethical activity.
As part of their probe, state officials will be able to issue subpoenas to extract potentially incriminating documents from the industry. Such evidence could be used in lawsuits or to force settlements with lenders.
A key question is whether state investigators can persuade bank employees to divulge some of the industry's secrets, said Ray Brescia, an Albany Law School professor who has tracked the mortgage crisis. Some mortgage company workers could have a powerful incentive to do so rather than face criminal charges, he noted.
"It's quite possible that there will be insiders who come forward to reveal the inner workings of these "boiler room" foreclosure mills, which likely won't be good for the banks," Brescia said.
A lawsuit that Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray filed this month against GMAC Mortgage and Ally Financial could preview things to come around the country.
Cordray's lawsuit seeks to halt potentially illegal foreclosure practices. It also asks that a judge stop sales of any foreclosed homes involving paperwork filed by a GMAC employee who signed hundreds of faulty documents. And it aims to toss out foreclosure judgments on homes that haven't yet sold.
The Ohio lawsuit also seeks damages for consumers and civil penalties of $25,000 for each separate violation. If similar cases were brought in all 50 states, it could total billions of dollars in damages and fines for lenders and others involved in foreclosures.
The allegations raise the possibility that foreclosure proceedings nationwide could be subject to legal challenge. More than 2.5 million homes have been lost to foreclosure since the recession started in December 2007, according to RealtyTrac Inc.
Kendall Coffey, a former U.S. attorney in Miami, said that fixing faulty or fraudulent mortgage paperwork can be relatively easy if a case is ongoing. But it's far more complex if a foreclosure has been completed and the home already sold.
There also are limits to what officials in some states can do.
For example, in Florida, an epicenter for foreclosure cases, Attorney General Bill McCollum suffered a setback last week in a probe into practices by four law firms that handled foreclosures. A judge ruled that McCollum had no authority to subpoena records from one firm. It said the state's bar association was the proper forum to decide whether to sanction the firm.
A different Florida firm involved in that investigation, the Law Offices of David J. Stern, is seeking a similar ruling. Government-controlled mortgage buyers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have stopped referring foreclosures to Stern's firm while they review the firm's filings.
Also Wednesday, federal regulators said all mortgage companies that work with Fannie and Freddie will have to review foreclosure documents and refile them if they spot problems. That will affect most of the industry, because Fannie and Freddie own or guarantee about half the nation's home loans.
In cases where no problems turn up, foreclosures "should proceed without delay," the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the agency that regulates Fannie and Freddie, said.
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Anderson reported from Miami.