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June 13, 2016

On the campaign trail in the USA, May 2016

On the campaign trail in the USA, May 2016

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Monday, June 13, 2016

2016 United States presidential election
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The following is the first edition of a monthly series chronicling the U.S. 2016 presidential election. It features original material compiled throughout the previous month after an overview of the month’s biggest stories.

In this month’s edition on the campaign trail: a former Republican congressman briefly joins the Libertarian Party and runs for vice president; the Democratic Party names its National Convention Platform Drafting Committee amid controversy; and Wikinews interviews a candidate who had a surprisingly strong performance in the West Virginia Democratic presidential primary.

Summary

On the campaign trail in early May, the Republican Party primary race grew more contentious as it reached its final stages. On the same day as the May 3 Indiana primary, Republican front-runner Donald Trump, who held a sizable delegate lead over his two remaining primary challengers, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Governor John Kasich, cited the National Enquirer to accuse Cruz’s father of involvement in the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Cruz, whom Trump branded as “Lyin’ Ted,” attacked Trump as a “pathological liar” and “serial philanderer.” Trump won Indiana by a large margin, prompting the second place Cruz to end his campaign. Thereafter, both the media and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus christened Trump as the presumptive nominee, even though he had yet to secure the requisite number of National Convention delegates. The next day, Kasich finally suspended his candidacy. As Trump pivoted into general election mode, he faced a vocal Stop Trump movement within the party and a significant polling deficit against the Democrats. A national CNN/ORC poll showed Trump trailing Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton by double digits. Nevertheless, unlike the GOP, the outcome of the Democratic primary race remained undecided. Although Clinton maintained a significant delegate lead, a CNN poll showed her ahead of sole rival, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, by only eight points. In fact, Sanders won the Indiana Democratic primary, making nine victories out of the latest fourteen contests to that point.

Donald Trump with a taco bowl on Cinco de Mayo.
Image: Donald J. Trump on Twitter.

Commencing his general election campaign, Trump announced he would participate in fundraising after self-funding his primary campaign. He named former presidential rival, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson to head a group to search for a running mate. And, in a show of pro-Hispanic sentiment, he tweeted a photo of himself with a taco bowl on Cinco de Mayo. Still, the Republican Party remained divided. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said he would not commit to endorsing Trump. He called for Trump “to set aside bullying, […] belittlement, and appeal to higher aspirations.” Ryan’s comments drew criticism from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former 2016 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, among others. However, former candidates Lindsey Graham and Jeb Bush, as well as former Presidents George W. Bush and George H. W. Bush, all said they could not support Trump’s candidacy. 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol both called for an independent presidential candidate to run as an alternative to Trump. Ryan called this “a disaster,” and sought unity by inviting Trump to a Republican congressional leadership meeting and offering to step down as chair of the GOP National Convention if Trump so desired. Despite the internal strife, Trump continued his focus on the general election, branding Clinton as “crooked Hillary,” and attacking her for “want[ing] to abolish the Second Amendment.” He also pivoted on policies, advocating for a rise in the federal minimum wage and taxes on the wealthy. The campaign announced that five or six names were on the vice presidential shortlist including former presidential candidate Chris Christie. Quinnipiac polls showed Trump leading or close behind Clinton in head-to-head match ups in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida. Clinton won the caucus in Guam and the campaign shifted to West Virginia and Nebraska. On the eve of the May 10 primaries, Cruz, still on the ballot in Nebraska, announced he might restart his campaign if he won the state. Instead, Trump won Nebraska by a wide margin and won West Virginia by an even wider margin. On the Democratic side, Sanders won West Virginia as voters turned on Clinton after she expressed unencouraging views about the coal industry. ABC News exit polling there revealed nearly half of Sanders supporters said they would vote for Trump if Clinton won the nomination.

Vice President Joe Biden, who had been expected to mount a 2016 campaign until he ruled it out in late 2015, admitted in an interview with ABC that he had planned to run for president in 2016 but the plans derailed upon the death of his son Beau. He revealed Senator Elizabeth Warren as his preferred running mate and endorsed her for the Democratic vice presidential nomination. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada cautioned Democrats against nominating a sitting Senator like Warren to avoid decreasing the number of Democrats in the Senate. Trump launched an assault on Warren, referring to her as “goofy” and Pocahontas for a previous claim of Amerindian ancestry. On May 12, Trump had his much anticipated meeting with Ryan. Afterwards, the two issued a joint statement calling the meeting “a very positive step toward unification.” Ryan still withheld his endorsement though Trump asked Ryan to remain as chair of the National Convention. Polls from mid-May showed Trump edging closer to Clinton in national head-to-head match ups, as Trump faced a barrage of controversies. Both Clinton and Romney called on Trump to release his tax records. He said he might release them, but maintained it was “none of [the public’s] business.” Media reports also scrutinized Trump for allegedly acting as his own publicist in the early 1990’s. He denied the allegations outright. Next, The New York Times published an exposé about Trump’s treatment of women throughout the years. The validity of the story came into question when the lead interviewee claimed The Times had taken her account out of context. On May 17, Trump easily won the Oregon primary. The next day, for the first time in months, a Fox News poll showed him with a national lead over Clinton. That same day, he released a list of eleven judges whom he would consider nominating to the U.S. Supreme Court. He later received an endorsement from the National Rifle Association. In the Democratic race, Sanders won the Oregon primary and narrowly lost to Clinton in Kentucky. He was also able to add five of his supporters to the Democratic National Convention platform drafting committee, ensuring greater influence over the party platform. Clinton rejected a debate with him and announced there would be no further primary debates. Trump offered to debate Sanders, which Sanders accepted, though Trump later backed out. Clinton went on the offensive against Trump for his past business bankruptcies, saying he “could bankrupt America like he’s bankrupted his companies.” She won the Washington primary on May 24. However, the next day, an Inspector General report said she did not comply with State Department policy when she sent official e-mails on a private server while Secretary of State.

Following a victory in the Washington Republican primary, Trump traveled to New Mexico, where the sitting Republican governor Susana Martinez snubbed his event. Trump attacked Martinez during the rally, later asking, “If I have a Republican that’s not on my side, why should I be particularly nice to that person?” Shortly thereafter, during a speech in California, he renewed attacks against Romney, Cruz, Kristol, and Jeb Bush. Former rival Marco Rubio announced he would release the delegates he won during the primary to support Trump and said he would be willing to go on the campaign trail for Trump, if asked. Rubio also apologized to Trump for derogatory comments he made earlier in the campaign. Trump mathematically secured the Republican nomination, when an uncommitted slate of delegates in North Dakota committed to supporting him. Meanwhile, the Libertarian Party commenced its National Convention and nominated for president, on the second ballot, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee. Also on the second ballot, for vice president, the party nominated Johnson’s pre-selected running mate, former Massachusetts Governor William Weld, who had just left the Republican Party to become a Libertarian. Trump called Johnson a “fringe candidate.” Johnson was not the last such candidate introduced in late May. Seemingly ending his search for an alternative to Trump, Kristol tweeted that he had found an “impressive” independent candidate. Bloomberg reported the candidate was little-known writer David A. French of the National Review. On the final day of May, Trump held a press conference in which he revealed the veterans charities he donated to after raising $5.6 million during a fundraiser he held in January in lieu of attending a debate. Trump excoriated the national press for its coverage of his campaign and referred to one reporter as “sleaze.” With the June 7 California primary ahead, Clinton received the endorsement of California Governor Jerry Brown. The latest polls showed her with a two point advantage over Sanders in the state. In the Real Clear Politics average, she led Trump in the general election nationally by 1.5%.

Ex GOP congressman joins LP, seeks VP, then leaves

As soon as Donald Trump secured the Republican presidential nomination, Libertarian Party (LP) membership applications doubled. Longtime Republican consultant Mary Matalin, former Massachusetts governor William Weld, and former Congressman Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan, were among those who left the GOP in May to find a new home in the LP. While Matalin enthusiastically backed Libertarian presidential runner-up Austin Petersen, and Weld won the party’s vice presidential nomination; Bentivolio, who had endorsed Dr. Ben Carson for president before joining the party, had a much different experience.

Congressman Bentivolio
Image: United States Congress.

“It was suggested by a few supporters I run [for vice president] as a libertarian,” says Bentivolio, a teacher and veteran of the Vietnam and Iraq wars, who earned the moniker “the accidental Congressman” after his surprising 2012 election, “I briefly entertained the idea of running and spent time investigating the party.”

Bentivolio, 64, unexpectedly won the Republican nomination to represent Michigan’s 11th Congressional District in 2012, after the sitting Congressman, Thaddeus McCotter, a 2012 presidential candidate, was unable to run for re-election after his petitions to qualify for the primary ballot were deemed fraudulent. Upon his victory in the general election, Bentivolio went to Washington, joining the House Committee on Small Business and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He took an active role in introducing and sponsoring successful legislation, becoming, according to an historian of the House, one of the most effective freshmen Congressmen of recent times. GovTrack listed him as the most transparent Republican freshman in the 113th United States Congress. Nevertheless, during his single term, he frequently bucked the party leadership, voting against a resolution to the 2013 government shutdown, calling for the impeachment of President Barack Obama, and agreeing to seek congressional hearings over chemtrails. In 2014, Bentivolio lost his seat to attorney Dave Trott, a primary opponent with a fundraising edge and the backing of the Republican establishment. After leaving Congress, Bentivolio suffered financial difficulties and had to file for bankruptcy in 2015, partly the result of his expensive primary campaign against Trott.

When Bentivolio joined the LP in May, he filed a Form 2 with the Federal Election Commission to run for vice president. Libertarian national chairman Nicholas Sarwark encouraged Bentivolio to run for his old congressional seat in addition to vice president. This was not well received by the local Libertarian Party, which feared such a run would violate Michigan’s sore-loser law; the same law that prevented Gary Johnson from appearing on the ballot in 2012. As a consequence, the local party nominated another candidate to run for the seat.

“The district delegates [five in total] voted for another as the House candidate”, recounts Bentivolio, “[the candidate’s] wife was the deciding vote.”

Afterwards, Bentivolio expressed doubt about the party platform, saying it amounted to “judicial supremacy,” which he rejects, referencing the 1857 Dred Scott case, which affirmed the rights of slaveholders. He added, “I am 100% pro-life and an abolitionist and many in the Libertarian Party are pro-choice and support slavery in their immigration policy.” He cited these as his reasons for ending his vice presidential campaign.

After Gary Johnson and William Weld won the party’s presidential and vice presidential nominations at the 2016 Libertarian National Convention, Bentivolio offered his perspective on Johnson and Weld. Though he considered Johnson, “a nice guy and honest,” he felt Johnson “thinks government has all the answers.” In contrast, Bentivolio said he personally believes “government is the problem” and only supports “a government within the strict limitations clearly expressed in the Constitution.” He described Weld, a Council on Foreign Relations member who proposed strict gun control measures as governor, as someone who “supports big government.”

Bentivolio has left the LP and now is an independent. He remains undecided on whether to support Donald Trump for president. To help him decide, he is currently researching claims of a woman named “Katie Johnson” who filed a lawsuit accusing Trump of rape. Trump’s attorneys dismiss the suit as a hoax.

DNC aims for unity with Platform Drafting Committee picks; controversy ensues

Every four years, the Democratic Party holds its National Convention, nominating a presidential ticket and conducting official business. One important item is the drafting of a party platform to express the party’s principles and vision for the future. A special committee is formed to draft the document. In May, fifteen individuals were named to the committee. Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz selected four of the members while the two presidential candidates picked the remaining eleven in proportion to the votes each candidate received in the primaries. Hillary Clinton, the party’s presidential front-runner, selected six. Bernie Sanders chose five, though the DNC rejected one of his original picks, a union leader, leading to charges of anti-union bias in the DNC. Still, upon the release of the names, The Nation magazine argued Sanders’ input provided the committee with a “progressive majority.” Wikinews was able to reach out to one of Sanders’ picks to see what he planned for the platform.

McKibben in 2008.
Image: Hotshot977.

For the committee, Wasserman Schultz tapped Congressman Elijah Cummings, who is to serve as the head; Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the only returning member from 2012; former Congressman Howard Berman; and Bonnie Schaefer, former Chief Executive Officer of Claire’s. Clinton selected Ambassador Wendy Sherman; Neera Tanden, head of the Center for American Progress; Ohio Representative Alicia Reece; Carol Browner, former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Congressman Luis Gutiérrez; and union leader Paul Booth. Sanders picked Dr. Cornel West; Congressman Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the US Congress; James Zogby, head of the Arab American Institute; Deborah Parker, a Native American activist; and Bill McKibben, a renowned environmentalist.

Sanders speaks at a May 18 rally in Vallejo, California.
Image: Shelly Prevost.

McKibben, a Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College who co-founded the climate change awareness organization 350.org, tells Wikinews that his Vermont roots may explain why Sanders selected him for the committee. However, McKibben has worked with Sanders previously on climate and energy issues, and The Boston Globe has described him as “probably the nation’s leading environmentalist.”

“I’d like to see [the platform] reflect the fact that since the last election the planet’s climate has deteriorated dramatically, with record temperatures, melting ice, and dying coral”, says McKibben, “So that means we need to move more aggressively, both to cut our reliance on fossil fuels and to boost renewable energy.”

McKibben is not the only member who prioritizes environmental issues. Browner, who headed the EPA during the entire presidency of Bill Clinton, has worked under President Obama as the director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy. While the environment is given a strong emphasis, Sanders has raised the point that labor representation on the committee is lacking.

In 2012, union leaders Donna Harris-Aikens of the National Education Association and Thea Lee of the AFL-CIO were on the committee. This year, the only union leader is Booth of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Sanders attempted to include National Nurses United executive director RoseAnn DeMoro, but Wasserman Schultz vetoed the pick. Sanders, in a press conference, accused the DNC of “not want[ing] representatives of labor unions on the platform drafting committee.” The DNC rejected the charge.

“We worked carefully with both campaigns to ensure overall balance and representation,” says DNC spokeswoman April Mellody, “[we] have 100% confidence that the views of our allies in the Labor community will be well represented in our Party’s platform as they have always been.”

Amid the division, McKibben expresses hope that though the platform is often “forgotten not long after it’s written,” perhaps the 2016 platform “will play a role in uniting the party.”

The committee is set to convene at the 2016 Democratic National Convention July 25–28 in Philadelphia.

DNC Platform Drafting Committee


Interview with overachieving West Virginia Democratic protest candidate

In the May 10 West Virginia Democratic primary, Bernie Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton 51.4 percent to 35.8 percent. Of the remaining 13 percent, nearly nine went to little-known protest candidate Paul T. Farrell Jr., a Huntington, West Virginia attorney who entered the race to challenge President Obama’s energy policies. Wikinews reached out to Farrell to ask a few questions about the campaign.

Results by county for Paul T. Farrell Jr.

██  5%

██ 5–10%

██ 10–15%

██ 15–20%

██  20%

Image: MB298.

During the campaign, Farrell did not hold any fundraisers and his only spending was the $2,500 filing fee to appear on the ballot. He believes Obama’s policies, which Clinton supports, have hurt the coal industry, a major sector of West Virginia’s economy. Many West Virginians, even Democrats, share this view. While mining still makes up 17 percent of West Virginia’s gross domestic product (compared to 3 percent nationally), since 2009, coal production has declined around 45 percent in the south part of the state. 332 mines have closed and almost 10,000 jobs or 35 percent of those in the industry, have been lost. West Virginia’s unemployment is the worst in the nation. According to ABC News exit polls from the primary, only 26 percent of West Virginia Democrats want to continue Obama’s policies.

Although registered Democrats outnumber Republicans roughly 577,000 to 378,000 in West Virginia, Republican presidential candidates have won the state in every election since 2000. ABC exit polls indicate a third of Democrats plan to vote in November for Trump, who has campaigned in favor of the coal industry. Trump is popular in West Virginia, having won 77 percent in the state’s GOP primary. He holds a 27 point lead over Clinton in the latest Public Policy Polling head-to-head match up.

West Virginia Democrats have a history of going against the national party establishment. Notably, prison inmate Keith Russell Judd won 41 percent in the 2012 primary against Obama, who was seeking re-election. Judd was on the ballot again in 2016, but received only 1.8 percent of the vote. Judd’s 2012 performance was one of the reasons Farrell cited for entered the race. In addition, he told the Charleston Gazette–Mail back in January that the candidates running did not share “West Virginia values.” He had hoped to secure some national convention delegates but just fell short. He was able to come in second place in the coal-rich Mingo County, where he outpaced Clinton 23.7 percent to 21.4 percent.

With Wikinews, Farrell discusses, his specific problem with Obama’s energy policy, what he is looking for in a presidential candidate, and his views on Trump.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.png How were you able to get over 8% of the vote in the West Virginia Democratic Primary?

Farrell: The 2016 Democratic nominees for President of the United States support President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan executive order which we disparagingly refer to as the “war on coal.” West Virginia voters take exception to abruptly bankrupting our economy without a comprehensive plan to rebuild our infrastructure. The presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton, lost all 55 counties in West Virginia. Voters did not cast a ballot for me; they cast a ballot for the candidate with “WV” listed after his name in protest to Mrs. Clinton’s energy policy.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.png Do you plan on supporting the Democratic presidential nominee come November?

Farrell: No. I will support the candidate that adopts a platform that rebuilds our economy which President Obama dismantled and pledges to pass legislation during his/her first “100 days.”

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.png What are your thoughts on presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump?

Farrell: Mrs. Clinton made the campaign promise to put “coal miners and coal companies out of business.” Mr. Trump says he will fight for West Virginia. Even if Mr. Trump is full of shit, I choose to fight rather than surrender. Most of the southern coal fields of West Virginia stand with me.



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October 4, 2015

Several dead in Oregon college shootings

Several dead in Oregon college shootings

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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Satellite map of the college campus.
Image: US Geological Survey.

Nine people were killed on Thursday by 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer on the campus of Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. By various reports seven or nine people were also injured. Officials said Mercer killed himself during the subsequent shootout with police.

Mercer began the killing spree in a class where he was a student by shooting the class teacher, and killed eight students in that and at least one other classroom. In the next classroom, a student nurse unsuccessfully tried to save the life of her friend who was wounded by the gunman. Another student, ex-soldier Chris Mintz, was shot seven times after coming to help.

The reasons for the attack are not known but CNN reports he singled out people who identified themselves as Christian. The BBC noted Mercer may have revealed his plans via social media and possibly left a written statement. He briefly served in the US Army in 2008.

An ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) agent said authorities found six weapons at the college and a further seven weapons from the gunman’s home, including a shotgun, all of which appear to have been obtained lawfully by Mercer and members of his family. State laws permit people to carry concealed weapons in higher education institutions and at least one other person at the college was armed. Oregon recently passed a new gun law in response to a shooting incident in 2012, in which a man used a stolen rifle to murder two other people in a Portland shopping center.

Cquote1.svg Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine, the conversation in the aftermath of it Cquote2.svg

—Barack Obama

Later on Thursday, President Barack Obama spoke for twelve minutes about the incident and called for stricter gun controls in line with other countries like Australia and the United Kingdom. Referring to earlier similar shootings, he said “Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine, the conversation in the aftermath of it. We have become numb to this”. This is reportedly the fifteenth occasion Obama has spoken out after such a killing spree. He expressed his belief that there would soon be a “press release” from the pro-gun lobby, who would call for a reduction of gun controls. He also predicted there would be criticism levelled at him about his politicization of the matter, but he said “this is something we should politicize.” Although no new initiative was outlined, Obama highlighted Congressional opposition which had stopped “the collection of data on shooting incidents” and stated “this is not something I can do myself.”



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April 29, 2015

US Soccer: Seattle Sounders defeat Portland Timbers

US Soccer: Seattle Sounders defeat Portland Timbers

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

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In Seattle, on Sunday, Seattle Sounders FC beat the Portland Timbers 1–0 in the Cascadia Cup battle. Stefan Frei notched his fourth shutout this season while Clint Dempsey scored the winning goal in the 77th minute with an assist from Andy Rose. Seattle is now 1–0 in the cup while Portland falls to 0–2.

Portland almost scored minutes later when sub Fanendo Adi rattled the crossbar in the 81st minute. The Timbers also led the Sounders in shots with 11–10. Seattle was glad to have points before hitting the road. Head Coach Sigi Schmid added “We’ve got 13 points now in seven games, so we’re happy with that and we want to come back from these three road games with as many as possible.”

The total crowd on Sunday was tallied at 41,451. Seattle now stands at 4-2-1 with Portland struggling at 2-3-3. Portland hosts the Vancouver Whitecaps next weekend and Seattle travels to face New York City FC.



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May 20, 2014

Pennsylvania court strikes down same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional

Pennsylvania court strikes down same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Judge John E. Jones III
Image: U.S. District Court Official Portrait.

A federal court struck down as unconstitutional Pennsylvania‘s 1996 law banning same-sex marriage today. Judge John E. Jones III has ordered the state to start issuing licenses for same-sex couples.

The lawsuit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union in July of last year. Lawyers argued the state’s ban violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Pennsylvania’s attorney general, Kathleen Kane, did not attempt to defend the ban, and has said she considers the law unconstitutional. Kane said today’s decision “brings justice to Pennsylvanians who have suffered from unequal protection under the law because of their sexual orientation”.

Pennsylvania’s governor, Tom Corbett, has not thus far responded to the ruling.

The decision in Pennsylvania followed a similar decision yesterday in Oregon striking down that state’s marriage ban. Courts in a number of other states including Arkansas, Idaho, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah have found state-level bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, although some of these decisions have not led to gay, lesbian and bisexual couples being able to marry while appeals are ongoing.



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October 3, 2013

Bank of America leads Consumer Financial Protection Bureau complaints about mortgages

Bank of America leads Consumer Financial Protection Bureau complaints about mortgages

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A review this week by Wikinews of US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) complaints about mortgages in the United States shows Bank of America leads all lending institutions in complaints.

Since mortgages complaints were recorded in December 2011, 77,622 total have been added to CFPB’s database. 29.2% of these complaints involved Bank of America, with the second most received by Wells Fargo, accounting for 15.5% of all complaints. JPMorgan Chase ranked third by volume of complaints with 9.8%. Ocwen was fourth with 8.7% and Citibank was fifth with 4.8%. Nationstar Mortgage; Green Tree Servicing, LLC; HSBC; PNC Bank; U.S. Bancorp; OneWest Bank; SunTrust Bank; Flagstar Bank; and Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc. each had between 1.0 and 3.8% of total complaints. The remaining 14.4% of all complaints about consumer mortgages were divided between about 530 other lending institutions.

The Motley Fool reported last month that for the past fiscal quarter, the biggest US based mortgage lenders were from first to fifth Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Quicken Loans and U.S. Bancorp.

According to the US Federal Reserve, debt for family residences stands at US$10.706 trillion for the second quarter of 2013. As of the end of June of this year, Bank of America is the United States’s second largest commercial bank with US$1.343 trillion in domestic assets. Wells Fargo is the fourth largest commercial bank with US$1.251 trillion in domestic assets. JPMorgan Chase is the largest US commercial bank with US$1.329 trillion in domestic assets and US$1.947 trillion in total assets.

The mortgage complaints in the CFPB report include several subproducts. Conventional fixed mortgages account for 27.1% of all complaints. Conventional adjustable mortgages account for 10.0%. FHA mortgages account for 7.7% of all complaints. Home equity loans or lines of credit account for 3.8% of all complaints. VA mortgages are 1.4% of all complaints. Second mortgages and reverse mortgages each account for 0.6% of complaints. The remaining 48.7% of complaints are about other mortgages or other mortgage issues. A few years ago, FHA loans accounted for about 10% of all US mortgages while VA loans accounted for about 3%. Prime loans accounted for over 75% of the market and the rest were subprime mortgages.

Total complaints against mortgage companies by state
Image: Laura Hale.

California leads all states by volume of complaints with 14768. It is followed by Florida, New York, Georgia and Texas. When complaints are divided by a state’s total population, New Hampshire leads. The state is followed by Washington D.C., Maryland, Georgia and Florida. Complaints do not correlate with national rankings for August’s foreclosure rate by state where Nevada topped the list, followed by Florida, Ohio, Maryland and Delaware.

Two zip codes account for over 1,000 total complaints between them. 565 complaints originated in the 48382 zip code, which is in Commerce Township, Michigan, located in suburban Detroit. 553 complaints originated in the 33071 zip code, in Coral Springs, Florida. According to real estate website Zillow, there are currently 1,033 properties in foreclosure in Coral Springs while Commerce Township only has 131 properties currently in foreclosure. Four other zip codes have 100 plus complaints originating from them. 91730, in Rancho Cucamonga, California, had 158 complaints. 33409, in West Palm Beach, Florida, had 132. 92626, in Costa Mesa, California, had 125 complaints. 92660, in Newport Beach, California, had 122 complaints. Respectively, the towns had 534, 1,068, 153, and 134 properties currently in foreclosure. These numbers are higher than for the cities of a few sampled zip codes where there was only one complaint, such as Gold Hill, Oregon which has 4 properties in foreclosure, and Decatur, Illinois which has 6 properties in foreclosure.

For the top 5 lenders by volume of complaints, the percentage of complaint types against them.
Image: Laura Hale.

The CFPB categorizes complaints into six categories: “Loan modification, collection,foreclosure” or problems when a person is unable to pay; “Loan servicing, payments, escrow account” or problems with making a payment; “Application, originator, mortgage broker”; “Credit decision / Underwriting”; “Settlement process and costs”, and “Other”. The CFPB says the complaint types indicate consumers “appear to be driven by a desire to seek agreement with their companies on foreclosure alternatives. The complaints indicate that consumer confusion persists around the process and requirements for obtaining loan modifications and refinancing, especially regarding document submission timeframes, payment trial periods, allocation of payments, treatment of income in eligibility calculations, and credit bureau reporting during the evaluation period.” Currently, 59.6% of all complaints against lenders deal with being unable to pay. 25.1% deal with problems in making a payment. 7.0% have to do with the application process.

Of the complaint-heavy zip codes, for 48382 in Commerce Township, Michigan, 98.9% of all complaints have to deal with being unable to pay. Accounting for 23.4% of all mortgage complaints in Commerce Township, 132 of the complaints for being unable to pay were made regarding Bank of America, accounting for 97.8% or all but 3 complaints against them from the zip. 121 of the Bank of America responses in Commerce Township were closed with explanation and 12 were closed with non-monetary relief. 33071 in Coral Springs is different, with 537 of the 553 complaints being categorized under other. Only 11 complaints relate to foreclosure and issues with being able to pay. 92626 in Costa Mesa, where 32% of the mortgage complaints were about Bank of America and 26.4% were about Wells Fargo, had 93.6% of its complaints dealing with being unable to pay. 5 total complaints dealt with payment issues and 3 dealt with applications.

Beyond regional variance in complaint types lodged, the top five mortgage lenders by volume of complaints all had being unable to pay as their top complaint category, ranging between 55.8% for Citibank and 69.4% for Bank of America. Problems with payment accounted for the second largest area of complaints, with Ocwen having the largest percentage of complaints at 31.9% and Bank of America having the smallest at 18.8%. Foreclosure was the top area of complaints for a number of other lending institutions including 1st Alliance Lending, OneWest Bank, Ally Bank, Banco Popular de Puerto Rico, Bank of the West, BMO Harris, BOK Financial Corp, Caliber Home Loans, Inc, Capital One, Deutsche Bank and EverBank.

By state complaints against mortgage lenders by month
Image: Laura Hale.

Nationally, complaints reached a high of 5,840 for January 2013, 1,107 more than the next highest month of April 2013. The total emerging for September is the second lowest since records were first kept in December 2011. On a state by state level, this pattern largely repeats with a major exception for Florida which saw a peak of 849 complaints in June 2012. Then, as now, Florida was one of the top five states in the nation in its foreclosure rate. The national January spike came as the Qualified Mortgage standard required by the The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 came into play. It required mortgage lenders to take steps to insure borrowers could repay their mortgages.

Bank of America’s complaint volume follows the national trend, with a spike in January 2013 with 1,925 total complaints. Unlike nationally, the next month by volume of complaints was February of this year with 1,598 complaints. Prior to that, the highest month was May 2012 with 1,418 complaints. The lowest volume of complaints is September this year with 334.

Wells Fargo matched national trends for volume of complaints by month, with the exception of the current month being the lowest on record for number of complaints with 197 compared to the next lowest month, December 2011, when they had 221. JPMorgan’s complaint volume by month spiked in January and March of this year with 504 complaints. April of this year was the next highest month with 493 complaints, edging out May of last year with 488 complaints. September this year is on track to be the lowest month by complaint volume.

The federal government shutdown is unlikely to impact the current mortgage situation in the United States directly for most consumers, though mortgage processing by the Federal Housing Administration could be slower, resulting in fewer mortgages processed.



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August 1, 2013

Woman awarded 18.6 million dollars in lawsuit against Equifax

Woman awarded 18.6 million dollars in lawsuit against Equifax

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A jury awarded Julie Miller of Marion County, Oregon $18.6 million last Friday in a federal lawsuit against Equifax. The lawsuit claimed she spent two years trying to get Equifax Information Services to fix major mistakes on her credit report which cost her the opportunities to get new credit.

Equifax.svg

Miller said she had contacted Equifax several times to dispute the incorrect information in her credit report such as incorrect SSN, date of birth, and account information. She was not aware of these problems until December 2009 when a bank denied her credit. She said other credit bureaus corrected errors when she contacted them, but Equifax didn’t.

Portland attorney Justin Baxter, involved in Miller’s case, said, “There was damage to her reputation, a breach of her privacy and the lost opportunity to seek credit. […] She has a brother who is disabled and who can’t get credit on his own, and she wasn’t able to help him.” To ABC News he said, “She did what you’re supposed to do. She didn’t go running straight to the courthouse. […] We found that when complaints would come in, they’d run them through a scanner and then send them overseas.”

Equifax declined to comment on this lawsuit to ABC News or Associated Press.



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December 15, 2012

Oregon mall re-opens after shooting leaves three dead, others injured

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

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File photo of a highly modified AR-15 rifle

Clackamas Town Center, the site of a deadly shooting spree earlier this week, near Portland, Oregon, re-opened yesterday. Jacob Tyler Roberts entered the mall on Tuesday at approximately 3:30pm local time and opened fire. By the time the shooting ended three were dead including the perpetrator, and seven were injured.

Roberts used a stolen AR-15 rifle, according to police. The perpetrator took his own life inside a Macy’s store about five minutes after the shooting had begun. The police were on the scene within minutes, and the mall was in lock down and took several hours to evacuate.

Police said on Wednesday that Roberts had stolen the weapon from someone close to him. The victims were later identified as Cindy Ann Yuille, 54, and Steven Mathew Forsyth, 45. Roberts also wore a special load bearing vest and carried a number of fully loaded magazines. The same day Roberts’ mother released a statement via a friend noting dismay over her son’s behavior.

One survivor of the incident told reporters that Roberts, “…looked like he was on a mission.” Roberts attended Milwaukie High School from 2004 to 2007, and officials there told reporters that he was an “average student with average grades.” A school official said Roberts transferred to another school for his senior year with no disciplinary record at Milwaukie High; the official could not recall anything in particular that stood out about Roberts during his time at that school.



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December 12, 2012

Oregon mall set to re-open after shooting leaves three dead, others injured

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

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File photo of a highly modified AR-15 rifle

Clackamas Town Center, the site of a deadly shooting spree earlier this week, re-opened today. Worker state that re-opening the mall will be a part of their collective healing process. Jacob Tyler Roberts entered the mall on Tuesday at approximately 3:25 pm and opened fire. By the time the shooting ended three were dead and seven were injured, including the perpetrator.

Roberts used a stolen AR-15 rifle, according to police. The perpetrator took his own life inside a Macy’s store about five minutes after the shooting had begun. The police were on the scene within minutes, and the mall was in lock down and took several hours to evacuate.

Police said on Wednesday that Roberts had stolen the weapon from someone close to him. The victims were later identified as Cindy Ann Yuille, 54, and Steven Mathew Forsyth, 45. Roberts also wore a special load bearing vest and carried a number of fully loaded magazines. The same day Roberts’ mother released a statement via a friend noting dismay over her son’s behavior.

One survivor of the incident told reporters that Roberts, “…looked like he was on a mission.” Roberts attended Milwaukie High School from 2004 to 2007, and officials there told reporters that he was an “average student with average grades.” Roberts had no disciplinary record at the school, but transferred to another school for his senior year. The school official could not recall anything in particular that stood out about Roberts during his time at that school.



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Mall shooting in Oregon leaves three dead, several injured

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

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File photo of a highly modified AR-15 rifle

A gunman entered Clackamas Town Center in Oregon, United States on Tuesday at approximately 3:25 pm and opened fire. By the time the shooting ended three were dead and seven were injured, including the perpetrator.

The shooter, Jacob Tyler Roberts, opened fire with a stolen AR-15 rifle, according to police. The perpetrator took his own life inside a Macy’s store about five minutes after the shooting had begun. The police were on the scene within minutes, and the mall was in lock down and took several hours to evacuate.

Police said on Wednesday that Roberts had stolen the weapon from someone close to him. The victims were later identified as Cindy Ann Yuille, 54, and Steven Mathew Forsyth, 45. Roberts also wore a special load bearing vest and carried a number of fully loaded magazines. The same day Roberts’ mother released a statement via a friend noting dismay over her son’s behavior.

One survivor of the incident told reporters that Roberts, “…looked like he was on a mission.” Roberts attended Milwaukie High School from 2004 to 2007, and officials there told reporters that he was an “average student with average grades.” Roberts had no disciplinary record at the school, but transferred to another school for his senior year. The school official could not recall anything in particular that stood out about Roberts during his time at that school.



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This text comes from Wikinews. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 licence. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikinews.

June 16, 2012

FanFiction.Net adult content purge felt two across fandom two weeks on

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

FanFiction.Net’s purge removed stories from Harry Potter, Naruto, Twilight, Hetalia – Axis Powers.
Image: alixe75 on ffdotnetrants.

Two weeks ago, FanFiction.Net purged the site of much of the adult content in a move that surprised many fan fiction readers and writers, and left several archives on the internet unprepared for a deluge of new users with problems continuing even now. FanFiction.Net removed approximately 62,000 stories following a a change in registration, allowing writers under the age of 18 to register.

FanFiction.Net spelled out the reasons for their purge on the front page of their site.

Please note we would like to clarify the content policy we have in place since 2002. FanFiction.Net follows the Fiction Rating system ranging from Fiction K to Fiction M. Although Fiction Ratings goes up to Fiction MA, FanFiction.Net since 2002 has not allowed Fiction MA rated content which can contain adult/explicit content on the site. FanFiction.Net only accepts content in the Fiction K through Fiction M range. Fiction M can contain adult language, themes and suggestions. Detailed descriptions of physical interaction of sexual or violent nature is considered Fiction MA and has not been allowed on the site since 2002.
 
— FanFiction.Net

According alixe75 on LiveJournal’s ffdotnetrants, FanFiction.Net deleted 2,002 Naruto stories, 1,497 Twilight stories, 1,256 Harry Potter stories, 670 Glee stories, 364 Inuyasha stories, 364 Hetalia – Axis Powers stories, 282 Kingdom Hearts, 213 Pokemon stories, 143 Yu-Gi-Oh stories, 127 Dragon Ball Z stories, 47 Doctor Who stories amongst others. feckless-muse on Dreamwidth reported the purge included banning users. Despite the purge, Alexa reports no drop in traffic to FanFiction.Net.

Contents

Critics United

Some in the fan community blamed Critics United for the purge, and a few Tumblr users created a group to fight them. The group earned a mention on the Huffington Poster.

According to feckless-muse, “people reporting these so called site violations are literally ganging up on the writers and leaving comments like the ones below en masse. The poor writers are spending hours (and in some cases months and years for ongoing fics) on their works only to be abused, bullied and then having their work deleted without notice.”

Fan response

A scene from Mary West’s mature rated Harry Potter fan fiction “Time for a Change”
Image: SSHGGillian.

Twelve days ago, a FanFiction.Net contributor named Charlotte Weatherly created a petition on Change.Org requesting FanFiction.Net stop its own destruction by purging stories. Earlier today, over 30,000 people had signed it, many offering their perspectives on why the site acted in error. Kara Bularzik’s comment, liked over 270 times, “… I cannot believe so much valuable work is being trashed because it doesn’t fit parameters that have not been strictly enforced since they were put into action. … What is the point of a ratings system if anything disagreeable is automatically purged? … I am truly disheartened, and I hope either a different course of action is taken or I wish ff.net and its future users (all within the PG reading range) the best as I sadly look for a site where one can truly “unleash their imagination”.” Zaynab Quadri’s comment, liked 88 times, expressed a similar sentiment, “Writers give warnings when they write explicit content, so if anyone’s reading anything they shouldn’t be, that’s their own fault. Let the writers have freedom of speech.” Lex Black’s comment, liked by 30 people, said, “Some of the best stories are being threatened by this. This rule hasn’t been inforced[sic] for ten years and limiting creativity now is ridicules.[sic] If it upsets you, then be MATURE enough to not read it.” People continue to support the petition, with Maria Adams of San Diego, California, Matthew Sandrock of Santa Maria, California, Jessie Brown of Clinton, Mississippi, Cynthia Mora of Renton, Washington, Anis Rosdi of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, James Clarke of Cedar Point, North Carolina, Blair Ritchie of Ashland, Oregon, Rianna McMahan of Auburn, Washington, Hannah Johnson of Tuolumne, California and C.J. Concepcion of Goodyear, Arizona signing today. Discussion of the petition on a FanFiction.Net message board generated over 3,000 plus comments and growing.

The purge story was picked up by Hannah Ellison at the Huffington Post two days ago, and compared the FanFiction.Net purge to a book burning. Ellison went on to say, “These unpaid authors are at the mercy of the sites willing to house their work and as such must adhere to the lines drawn in the very murky sand of copyright law. Some of these authors spent months writing and editing novel length works to then have them deleted entirely, as if they were something with no artistic or cultural worth; artefacts that either follow the rules or don’t.” Ellison’s post earned 1,900+ FaceBook likes, with 50 comments on the article.

Ellison’s post appeared on several Tumblr posts. xmarisolx posted her response on Tumblr a day ago, claiming FanFiction.Net was shooting itself in the foot and driving traffic to other archives such as An Archive of Our Own (AO3). candycanine, quoting Heinrich Heine, supported Ellison’s book burning reference.

In a Wikinews interview with former fan fiction writer and current professional writer Angelia Sparrow, she indicated she a lack of surprise over FanFiction.Net’s actions, saying “Ten years ago they purged all the NC-17 stuff. Sounds like they just did a cleanup again. We’re getting more puritanical everywhere, you know? All Romance Ebooks is strongly limiting what romances can contain.”

Long time Thunderbirds fan fiction writer Tikatu said in an interview with Wikinews, “The content purge hasn’t bothered me at all, really, though I’ve been lurking around on ff.net’s Critics United. They’ve been blamed for all the deleted stories — never mind that they don’t have enough people to have reported that many fics.”

Anime fan fiction writer and artist Hurricane Islandheart defended FanFiction.Net’s actions, saying “All FF.net was doing was catching up on their site maintenance and reports – people just freaked because they’d finally been caught breaking the rules.” She reinforced this idea on her LiveJournal.

I think that’s what finally killed me about fandom. That bullshit merited coverage by the Huffington Post, and all that happened was FF.net finally decided to deal with some reports and enforce their rules for a little while again. They’ve done this before. We did it at MediaMiner, when that site was actively moderated – reports would pile up in slack time, when all the mods were busy, and when we’d finally get a chance to look at them, some would take it as a “sudden attack” on their fics. No, it’s not a “sudden attack” – you got away with breaking the rules for a while, but now, between some mods who have time on their hands and a group targeting shitty fics, they finally got caught. (For the record – my fics flagrantly disregarded the rules at FF.net, and for the last few years I had a notice up on my profile in boldface that said as much and that I was aware of it. I was never, ever, reported; I never, ever had CU comment on any of my fics; I never, ever had FF.net staff remove them. I finally got sick of the site and took them down myself a few days ago, since I’ve decided to make my move to AO3 permanent.)
 

Fan fiction archives

An Archive of Our Own (AO3) experienced down time as the site’s servers could not handle the additional load from FanFiction.Net users, generating a number of 50 errors at the height of the problem. The site’s parent organization, Organization for Transformative Works, not mentioning server problems on their Dreamwidth account, updated their website six days ago to discuss the situation.

This sudden and dramatic expansion has come about largely as a result of changes on Fanfiction.net, who have recently introduced more stringent enforcement of their policies relating to explicit fanworks which have resulted in some fans no longer being able to host their works there. One of the primary reasons the AO3 was created was in order to provide a home for fanworks which were at risk of deletion elsewhere, so we’re very keen to welcome these new users, but in the short term this does present us with some challenges!
 

The traffic increase came on the back of Quantcast reported increase earlier in the year, 57,201 visitors at the end of April, up from 40,560 at the end of March. Alexa reported a big drop in traffic for the archive the day of the purge and traffic has subsequently remained at above average before FanFiction.Net purge levels. This matches organizationally reported increase. AO3 took measures to reduce server load such as disabling tag filtering, improving statistics caching, turning off alphabetical listing of users, suspending the ability for people to request invitations to the and site. Even before FanFiction.Net ‘s adult content purge, AO3′s invitation code queue exceeded 17,000. Before the site closed registration, Tumblr user alien-rz requested a code and received a confirmation e-mail saying “You’ve been added to our queue! Yay! We estimate that you’ll receive an invitation around 2012-12-13.”

No problems were reported by Hurricane Islandheart on MediaMiner.Org, an anime centric fan fiction site popular in the mid-2000 that is largely absent a moderators at the moment. The site saw in increase in traffic earlier this year, going from 24,156 at the end of December 2011 according to Quantcast to 58,558 visited at the end of March 2012.

According to Tikatu, a member of FanFiction.net Writers Unite, an eFiction software based site, YourFanFiction.com, went down under the additional traffic strain. According to Tumblr users, having been created in response to the purge, the site swelled to over a thousand users including a number of Tumblr users like bluelilacflame, konata-the-espeon and getwhatyouwantorjustgetold.



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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.

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