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November 12, 2013 | By Richard A. Serrano
WASHINGTON - The undercover FBI informant warned Pakistani immigrant Basit Javed Sheikh that it was not too late to back out. "You don't have to do it," he told Sheikh in a private Facebook message Oct. 17. But Sheikh, 29, a permanent U.S. resident living in central North Carolina, was adamant, according to a federal affidavit, telling the informant: "I'm serious" and "Akhi Wallahi!" - Arabic for "Brother, I swear to God!" Now Sheikh is under arrest on allegations of attempting to reach Syria to provide material support to Al Nusra Front, an Al Qaeda-affiliated group in Iraq that the U.S. deems a terrorist organization.
November 2, 2013 | By Randy Lewis
This post has been updated. See note below for details. Many of the songs on "Divided & United: The Songs of the Civil War" had been long relegated to the dustbins of history before executive producer Randall Poster decided to pair the 19th century tunes with contemporary artists such as Ashley Monroe and the Carolina Chocolate Drops. But beyond giving fresh treatments to nearly three dozen songs and commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the project also delivers an allegory for the political polarization of the U.S. today.
October 23, 2013 | By Andrew Tangel
NEW YORK - Bank of America has been found liable for fraud in the sale of faulty loans by its Countrywide mortgage unit, a major victory for the federal government as it continues to pursue cases stemming from the financial crisis. A federal jury in Manhattan sided with prosecutors who alleged Countrywide Financial Corp. churned out risky home loans in a process called "the Hustle" and then sold them to mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Calabasas company, once considered the crown jewel of American mortgage lending, made big profits unloading loans that were later rendered worthless during the housing crisis in 2008.
October 23, 2013 | By Andrew Tangel
NEW YORK -- Bank of America has lost a major civil fraud case brought by the Justice Department, a major victory for the federal government as it continues to pursue cases stemming from the financial crisis. A federal jury in Manhattan found BofA liable for faulty loans its unit Countrywide Financial Corp. sold to mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The jury also found former Countrywide executive Rebecca Mairone liable, a spokeswoman for U.S. Atty. Preet Bharara said.
October 19, 2013 | By Patrick J. McDonnell
BEIRUT - Nine Lebanese hostages freed after being held by Syrian rebels for more than a year arrived to a tumultuous welcome in Beirut late Saturday, capping a complex deal that also resulted in the release of two Turkish pilots kidnapped in Lebanon and the reported freeing of scores of prisoners from Syrian jails. About an hour after the nine ex-hostages were mobbed by relatives and other well-wishers at a VIP lounge at Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport, images on Turkish television showed an aircraft carrying the two Turkish Airlines pilots arriving at Istanbul Ataturk Airport.
October 18, 2013 | By Scott Martelle
If one ever needed proof that we live in a warrior culture, look no further than those who have falsely claimed military experience, from two-bit conmen to politicians and corporate leaders adding undeserved gravitas to their resumes. It is an attempt to steal glory, a recognition that much of the American public holds a special regard for those who have served. As Richard A. Serrano explores in his short, entertaining "Last of the Blue and Gray: Old Men, Stolen Glory, and the Mystery that Outlived the Civil War," this kind of military fraud is nothing new. In the economic dark days of the Great Depression, "veterans" discovered that a few well-placed lies about serving in the Civil War, backed by a supporting letter from a bamboozled politician, could land a veteran's pension from the government.
September 26, 2013 | By Rick Rojas
Decades after that December day in the Guatemalan village, the former soldier could remember the women's screams. Their cries for help, he said, rang out from the church as the soldiers raped them. He recalled the bloodshed and the victims flung into a well, some still alive as they plunged. "At Dos Eres, the people were humble people," the soldier, Cesar Franco Ibanez, said of the 1982 massacre of more than 200 villagers. "They had no weapons. " In a Riverside courtroom this week, Jorge Sosa, a Moreno Valley martial arts instructor, is on trial, accused of lying on his application for U.S. citizenship.
September 25, 2013 | By Emily Alpert
Sixteen-year-old Mary Sem worries about her family. She has overheard her mother crying over memories of loved ones she lost to the Khmer Rouge. Her father and older sisters struggle to cover rent and the perpetual bills. Her college dreams are hitched to helping them. If Mary got a degree and a good job, "my family would be able to pay the bills on time," the teen said one day after school in Long Beach. "They wouldn't need to worry about anything. " The Sems, who trace their roots to Cambodia, have little in common with the stereotype of Asian Americans as a "model minority" that is faring well economically.
September 24, 2013 | By Bruce Ackerman
We are in the midst of the first serious reexamination of government spying since the 1970s. President Obama has asked a special review panel for initial recommendations by November. The normally secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, also known as the FISA court, has broken new ground by publishing a full-dress opinion upholding the collection of massive amounts of data on domestic telephone conversations. With James R. Clapper, director of national intelligence, all but conceding that there was a "good side" to Edward Snowden's leaks, we can expect significant actions by the courts and the executive.
September 19, 2013 | By Andrew Tangel and Jim Puzzanghera
NEW YORK - JPMorgan Chase & Co. has made a rare declaration for Wall Street: The nation's biggest bank admitted it broke the law. The financial giant acknowledged Thursday that it violated securities laws and agreed to pay fines of $920 million as part of settlements over the "London Whale" trading debacle. The Securities and Exchange Commission and other government authorities alleged the bank suffered widespread breakdowns in controls and management. Regulatory settlements are commonplace for big financial firms.
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