From the daily archives: Monday, April 19, 2010

Washington, DC – U.S. Congressman Bob Filner urged the Small Business Administration (SBA) to approve the State of California’s request for a disaster declaration for Imperial County.  The declaration would make SBA disaster loans available for renters, homeowners and businesses that suffered losses due to the earthquake that struck the county on April 4th.

The request from Congressman Filner comes on the heels of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s request for the SBA disaster declaration in light of the April 13th damage survey that showed 43 homes and 9 businesses have suffered uninsured losses of more than 40 percent.

“I am happy that Governor Schwarzenegger has submitted the formal request for SBA assistance.  Imperial County needs federal assistance to recover from the earthquake, and SBA loans should be part of the equation,” said Filner.  “This is a community that has been hit hard and we need to help them rebuild and get back on their feet.”

If the SBA issues a disaster declaration for Imperial County, homeowners and renters would be able to apply for damages to their home, personal property, and vehicles and businesses would be able to apply for loans for damages to their real estate or business contents and for economic losses.


Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein (both D-CA) today urged President Obama to declare Imperial County a federal disaster area – a designation that will make the county eligible for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Imperial County was hit by a devastating 7.2-magnitude earthquake earlier this month that damaged homes, businesses, schools, a hospital, water infrastructure, roads and more. As a result of the disaster, costs for the state of California are expected to exceed $90 million.

A federal disaster designation could make the county eligible for assistance such as unemployment benefits for those who are out of work due to the earthquake and federal grants for seismic retrofitting of buildings, bridges and other infrastructure.

Last week, Senators Boxer and Feinstein also wrote Small Business Administrator Karen Mills and urged her to declare Imperial County a disaster area – a designation that will make residents and businesses eligible for low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA). Disaster loans from the SBA can help residents repair their homes and assist businesses that need to rebuild and restock.

The full text of Senator Boxer and Senator Feinstein’s to President Obama is below:

April 19, 2010

The Honorable Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, DC    20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write in strong support of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s request that you declare Imperial County, California, a major federal disaster area, which will provide much-needed assistance to our state. We also strongly support the Governor’s request for statewide Hazard Mitigation and Disaster Unemployment Assistance for Imperial County.
On April 4th, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake rocked Imperial County, California, wreaking havoc on the communities in the county, and causing the destruction of homes, businesses, schools, and hospitals. The earthquake damaged roads and highways, critical water storage and wastewater facilities, disrupted telephone communications, and broke water mains. As a result of the disaster, costs for the state are expected to exceed $90 million.

California has already been working with local governments, California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA), U.S. Small Business Administration (U.S. SBA), the Imperial County Sheriff, Calexico Police Department, El Centro Police Department, U.S. Border Patrol, and other federal agencies to assess the extensive damage from this earthquake and to begin the long-term clean-up and reconstruction efforts. With state resources stretched thin, additional federal assistance is essential to repairing, rebuilding, and safeguarding our communities from any possible future loss of life.

On April 5th, 2010, Imperial County declared a local emergency followed by the Governor declaring a State of Emergency for the county. The severe damages in the region make clear that a federal disaster declaration is vital to helping our state recover from this earthquake.

In the wake of this unprecedented disaster, we stand ready to assist you in expediting resources and support to these impacted communities in California, and appreciate your consideration of this request.


Barbara Boxer                                                             Dianne Feinstein

United States Senator                                                 United States Senator


Encinitas, Calif. — Early this morning, after a recent string of maritime smuggling incidents, U.S. Border Patrol agents, in conjunction with CBP Office of Air and Marine agents arrested eight Mexican nationals after they illegally entered the country aboard a boat along the San Diego County coastline.

At about 1:30 a.m., Border Patrol agents spotted a panga-style boat as it approached the coastline near Swami’s Beach in Encinitas, Calif. Agents observed the boat come ashore and saw eight people disembark from the vessel. Agents quickly apprehended the individuals, who all admitted being Mexican nationals illegally in the United States.

The individuals, seven adult males and one adult female, were arrested and transported to the Imperial Beach Border Patrol Station for processing. The vessel was seized by CBP Office of Air and Marine. The smuggling case was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for further investigation.

Photo of boat beached in shallow water.
San Diego CBP agents apprehended eight illegal aliens who tried to enter the U.S. by coming ashore in this boat. The case was one of five maritime smuggling attempts thwarted by CBP personnel in the San Diego area within a week.

This is the fifth maritime smuggling attempt stopped by CBP within the past six days. Wednesday, Border Patrol agents arrested 23 suspected illegal aliens at Marine Beach on Camp Pendleton. On April 9, Border Patrol agents apprehended 11 Mexican nationals near the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Over the weekend, agents apprehended five Mexican nationals and arrested one U.S citizen for suspected smuggling near Mission Bay, and CBP Marine Interdiction agents intercepted a 24-foot boat and apprehended eight Mexican nationals near Ocean Beach, California.

CBP agents maintain a strong enforcement posture on the coastal borders to detect, apprehend and deter smugglers of humans, drugs and other contraband.


Brown Accuses Moody’s of Stonewalling Investigation into Its Role in Financial Crisis

Accusing giant bond-rating firm Moody’s Investors Service of withholding evidence documenting its role in the housing and Wall Street meltdown, Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced court action to force Moody’s to explain why it gave its highest ratings to “risky and toxic” mortgage-backed securities that ultimately cost investors and taxpayers billions of dollars.

Brown’s action comes seven months after the Attorney General subpoenaed Moody’s, but the firm has refused to comply with the subpoena.

“The need for court action to enforce a state subpoena is highly unusual,” Brown said, “because companies almost always comply without such a drastic step being necessary.” But he said Moody’s, which played a central role in the run-up to the collapse of housing prices, has refused to explain its ratings practices to the state. Moody’s said responding to the state subpoena would be a “waste of time.”

“The state’s subpoena seeks information regarding Moody’s decision to give its highest credit ratings to securities backed by risky and toxic mortgage-backed securities,” Brown said.

“By taking this step, I intend to stop Moody’s from ignoring the state’s subpoena,” Brown said. “The people of California have the right to know how this credit rating agency got it so wrong and whether it violated California law in the process.”

Moody’s and other credit rating agencies ignored red flags in the run-up to the collapse in housing prices and gave stellar ratings to shaky securities, which made those investments appear as safe as government-issued Treasury bonds, Brown explained.

“But investors swiftly learned that the ratings were as worthless as the securities themselves,” he said.

Brown said Moody’s and other ratings agencies worked behind the scenes with the same Wall Street firms that created the securities, earning billions of dollars in revenue from those firms at a rate nearly double what they earned for rating other securities.

“A central question in the aftermath of the financial meltdown is whether Moody’s gave investment banks and other securities packagers unwarranted high ratings at the expense of investors, who depended upon the integrity and independence of Moody’s ratings,” Brown said.

The subpoena issued by Brown’s office on Sept. 17, 2009, seeks to determine:

– Whether Moody’s knew that the AAA ratings it gave to high-risk securities weren’t warranted
– Whether Moody’s made fraudulent representations about the quality of its ratings
– Whether Moody’s made fraudulent representations concerning the independence of its ratings
– Whether Moody’s conspired with companies it rated to the detriment of investors
– Whether Moody’s profited from giving inaccurate ratings to some securities
– Whether Moody’s compromised its own standards and safeguards in order to increase its own profits.

Moody’s and other Wall Street ratings agencies grade the credit worthiness of the bonds and securities that corporations and municipalities issue. Investors depend on these ratings to gauge risk in making investments. At the peak of the housing boom, these agencies gave their highest ratings to complicated, high-risk financial instruments that soon accelerated the financial collapse.

Brown said banks, pension funds and other investors, in California and elsewhere, relied on these ratings when they purchased trillions of dollars of securities backed by risky mortgages, seeking high returns and reassured by ratings indicating the issues were low-risk. Those purchases helped inflate the housing bubble by enabling ever-riskier mortgages.

When the speculative bubble burst, those risky mortgages defaulted in record numbers and investors were left unable to sell now-worthless securities. The agencies then downgraded the credit ratings of more than $1.9 trillion in residential mortgage-backed securities, a tacit acknowledgement they had ignored or did not understand the risks of the debt they rated, Brown said.

Moody’s is one of the most profitable companies in the country. It had the highest profit margin of any company in the S&P 500 in the years leading up to 2008 – higher than Google or Microsoft, according to U.S. Representative Henry Waxman, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Brown’s investigation of Moody’s is one of many actions by his office to fight financial abuses relating to the mortgage meltdown, including his 2008 lawsuit that resulted in an $8.68 billion settlement with Countrywide Home Loans over its fraudulent lending practices, as well as recent crackdowns by the Attorney General on foreclosure consultants and loan-modification scammers.


By Mario Conde

There is no school for the rest of April in Calexico as the Calexico Unified School District will continue to inspect and fix damages at the schools by the 7.2 earthquake that hit our region a couple of weeks ago.

School teachers and staff met at Calexico City Council Chambers Monday morning to discuss the state of the schools in Calexico. It was announced in that meeting that schools will continue to get inspected by State and local contractor to review the buildings. School will be closed for the next two weeks until the inspections from contractors and engineers are finished.

As tremors continue, teams made up of District, state, and local experts continue to assess the extent of damage at all District facilities. District Superintendent Dr. Christina Luna said that the District’s number one goal is the safety of our students and staff. Therefore, she stressed that the District must first ensure that those classrooms and the surrounding District property are structurally sound. In the meantime, Calexico Students from Jefferson will be sent to Kiki Camarena Jr. High and half of Camarena students will be split to either William Moreno Jr High School or De Anza jr High.

The last day of school is schedule to be on Tuesday June 8th, when asked when will classes officially end, Calexico teachers union representative Carmen Durazo said that superintended Christina Luna will ask the State for a waiver so they don’t have to extend the calendar year because of the earthquake. Durazo said the State granted a waiver to San Diego school after the wild fires.

Calexico teachers will continue to work on their instructional curriculum as they prepare to return to school in May.

There will be counseling offered for students and families that were affected by the earthquake as counselors were placed in different locations of the City.

Counseling support staff will be available Monday-Friday from 10:00 a.m.-12 noon and from 1:00 p.m.-3:00p.m at following locations: City Hall Chambers, Mario Esquer building, Homestyle Family Buffet, and the Calexico United Methodist Church.

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