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Whee

Love that free market! Show this to your wingnut friends:

THE Japanese owner of the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant falsified safety data and “dishonestly” tried to cover up problems there.

Tokyo Electric Power Co injected air into the containment vessel of Fukushima reactor No 1 to artificially “lower the leak rate”. When caught, the company expressed its “sincere apologies for conducting dishonest practices”.

The misconduct came to light in 2002 after whistleblowers working for General Electric, which designed the reactor, complained to the Japanese government. Another GE employee later confessed that he had falsified records of inspections of reactor No1 in 1989 – at the request of TEPCO officials. He also admitted to falsifying other inspection reports, also on request of the client. After that incident TEPCO was forced to shut down 17 reactors, albeit temporarily.

Dale Bridenbaugh, a GE employee who was not the whistleblower, resigned 35 years ago after becoming convinced that the design of the Mark 1 reactor used at Fukushima was seriously flawed. Five of the six reactors were built to that design.

Mr Bridenbaugh told ABC News: “The problems we identified in 1975 were that, in doing the design of the containment, they did not take into account the dynamic loads that could be experienced with a loss of coolant.”

In a document entitled Lessons Learned from the TEPCO Nuclear Power Scandal, released by the company and seen by The Times, TEPCO blamed its “misconduct” in 2002 on its “engineers’ overconfidence of their nuclear knowledge”. Their “conservative mentality” had led them to fail to report problems, the company said, resulting in an “inadequate safety culture”.

In 2007, TEPCO ran into trouble again after misinforming government officials about breakdowns at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, which had been damaged after a magnitude 6.8 quake. In a cable released by WikiLeaks, a US official said: “TEPCO issued a corrected statement on July 18 in which it admitted it miscalculated the amount of radiation leakage.”

WikiLeaks cables also reveal that Japan was warned in 2009 that its power plants could not withstand powerful earthquakes.

This would be a good time to observe that fine Japanese tradition of seppeku.

That settles it

The New York Times has decided Social Security will be cut:

Once this year’s budget battle is settled, Congress will move on to potentially bigger fights over whether to raise the national debt limit and how to rein in the costs of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Wouldn’t it be nice if, when their own Nobel Prize-winning columnist writes about Social Security, they actually paid attention? THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH SOCIAL SECURITY!!!

Rich people are eating you

Rude Pundit.

Oh my

I wonder if this is true, and I wonder who’s leaking it — and why. Keep in mind, of course, that The Daily is a Rupert Murdoch property:

At the tail end of her mission to bolster the Libyan opposition, which has suffered days of losses to Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s forces, Clinton announced that she’s done with Obama after 2012 — even if he wins again.

“Obviously, she’s not happy with dealing with a president who can’t decide if today is Tuesday or Wednesday, who can’t make his mind up,” a Clinton insider told The Daily. “She’s exhausted, tired.”

Well, yes. So this does have the ring of truth, unfortunately. If there’s anything I could say about Obama, it’s that he’s a ditherer. And believe it or not, it is sometimes more useful to make the wrong decision quickly than to drag things out as if it were a graduate seminar.

I wouldn’t agree with Clinton, either; it sounds as if she’s pushing for war with Libya. So we’re screwed either way.

The Bank of America leaks

Remember when I wrote last month about that Philadelphia music promoter who sued Wells Fargo — and won the right to auction off their property?

I couldn’t figure out why Wells Fargo was forcing this replacement-value insurance policy on the guy:

Rodgers made all his mortgage payments on time, but Wells decided out of the blue that he had to carry insurance for the full replacement value of his home — $1 million — and started to charge him an extra $500 a month in premiums. When Rodgers sent a formal letter to the lender questioning this, they did not answer in good time, so a court awarded him $1,000 in damages, which Wells wouldn’t pay. So the court is allowing him to sell the contents of the lender’s office to make good on the bill.

[...] “It’s a completely unreasonable demand,” says Irv Ackelsberg, a mortgage expert at the Philadelphia law firm Langer, Grogan & Diver. “Their interest is in protecting their mortgage, not ensuring that the house is rebuilt.”

Rodgers’ next step put him at some risk, he concedes now. He refused to renew the higher-cost policy. Instead, Wells Fargo bought him so-called forced-placement insurance – a policy that typically costs much more than ordinary coverage and only protects the mortgage-holder’s interests.

It took a couple of days after the Anonymous leak for the contents to sink in, but I finally connected the dots. Rodgers was more than a victim of bank abuse — this was systematic outright fraud throughout the mortgage and banking industry. It wasn’t just Wells Fargo.

Here’s what Jeff Horwitz points out in the November 2010 issue of American Banker:

  • Bank of America Corp. owns a force-placed insurance subsidiary, and most other major servicers receive commissions or reinsurance fees on the very same policies they purchase on investors’ and borrowers’ behalf.
  • Court documents show that a subsidiary of the country’s largest specialty insurer paid undisclosed “commissions” for the rights to a servicer’s force-placed business.
  • State court filings show alleged abuse in which banks charged borrowers for unnecessary insurance and backdated policies providing coverage retroactively. Often the insurance was acquired only after banks stopped advancing the premiums of delinquent borrowers’ escrowed policies, causing those cheaper and more comprehensive policies to expire. In response to questions from American Banker, federal and state officials said that some practices that industry trade groups defend may not be legal.
  • Foreclosure defense and legal aid attorneys say force-placed insurance is found on most of the severely delinquent loans in this country. If so, the cost to investors may well be in the billions of dollars.
  • With little regulatory oversight or even private investor awareness, force-placed insurance has helped make drawn-out foreclosures lucrative for servicers — far more so, in some cases, than helping a borrower return to performing status. As the intermediary between borrower and investor, servicers appear to be benefiting themselves at the expense of both.

Horwitz says JPMorgan Chase wouldn’t tell him what insurance company they used for reinsurance, but figured out that Assurant’s annual report “describes precisely such a relationship from an insurer’s perspective.”
Continue Reading »

Sock puppets

If you came late to the blogging game, sock puppets are online commenters who pretend to be people they’re not, usually in service of some other agenda (paid or unpaid).

I wonder who got this sock puppet contract for the Pentagon.

Hmm

It’s really disorienting when geologists on my teevee sound just like/agree with astrologers:

Funny business

Some headlines write themselves.

Global warming

So now, not only is it not man-made, it doesn’t even exist.

Progress!

Sometimes it’s the little things

I’m having a great hair day! That’s my silver lining today, and I’m sticking to it.

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