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Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

Thursday - 2/28/2013, 11:08am  ET

The Associated Press

Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:

Feb. 25

The New York Times on mortgage relief:

A year ago, when the nation's biggest banks settled with state and federal officials over claims of foreclosure abuses, the public was led to believe that the deal would allow millions of hard-pressed borrowers to escape the threat of foreclosure. It still hasn't happened.

A third progress report was issued recently by the monitor of the settlement, which, among its terms, required the banks to grant $25 billion worth of mortgage relief, much of it by reducing the principal balances on troubled loans. The report showed that through the end of 2012, 71,000 borrowers had their primary mortgages modified, versus 170,000 who received help on their second mortgages, including home equity loans.

Both types of assistance can help struggling borrowers -- to a point. But as Jessica Silver-Greenberg reported in The Times, housing advocates say that in many cases, banks are not helping with troubled primary mortgages, which often leaves the homeowners facing foreclosure. Instead, the banks are forgiving the second mortgages, which allows them to say that they have met their obligations under the settlement.

In other words, banks are structuring the debt relief in ways designed to tidy up their balance sheets, rather than to keep as many people from losing their homes as possible. Banks often do not own the primary mortgages; they only service them for investors who own them. But they do often hold second liens on their books. In general, the holder of a second lien gets nothing when a home is worth less than the mortgage balance or is sold in foreclosure. But by forgiving the second liens, the bank at least gets credit for "helping" the borrower.

In the report, the settlement monitor, Joseph Smith, said the banks still had much work to do on the borrowers' behalf. We'll believe it when we see it.

Online:

http://www.nytimes.com

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Feb. 21

The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, on BP's civil trial:

BP's general counsel said recently that he's confident that the company will escape the harshest level of civil penalties for the massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It's not surprising that he would argue against the notion that the oil giant was grossly negligent for the spill, which poured 4.1 million barrels of oil into the Gulf. The company hopes to keep its liability from being quadrupled under the Clean Water Act, which is what a finding of gross negligence would trigger. The difference is huge: $4.5 billion for simple negligence or more than $17 billion for gross negligence.

.... It is important to remember what led to the Deepwater Horizon disaster and the company's spotty track record on safety. None of BP's PR efforts can change that.

The federal government's most conclusive report on the Deepwater Horizon explosion... found that BP's failure to assess the risks of its Macondo well and the company's drive to cut corners at the expense of safety were the main causes.

Significantly, the Joint Investigation Team of the Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement and the Coast Guard was the only non-criminal probe of the disaster with subpoena power. That allowed investigators to question, under oath, a large number of witnesses... and to have access to extensive records from the companies involved.

Members of the joint investigative team clearly believed that BP personnel sacrificed safety in order to save time and money at the company's Macondo well. The group's September 2011 report noted that at the time of the blowout, the project to drill Macondo was behind schedule and $58 million over budget. The document included a chart keying on seven critical decisions in the design of the well and the drilling process -- all made by BP managers. ...

The bottom line is simple: BP should pay the highest penalties possible to undo the grievous damage it has done.

Online:

http://www.nola.com

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Feb. 21

The Anniston (Ala.) Star on four-year college degrees:

Whether it's Darwinian theory or basic logic is irrelevant. All job-seekers need to know that it's getting increasingly difficult to land decent employment without a bachelor's degree.

That's not a new premise, of course. Regardless of the field, four-year degrees have long been seen as a needed pathway to a better life and sustainable employment. While today's trends show that bachelor's degrees are indeed needed, they're often earning job-seekers positions that pay low and require menial tasks.

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