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Red, White, and Hackneyed

Today, we have all kinds of Sun-Sentinel Fourth of July fun. In yesterday's edition, the newspaper had two section front pages with centerpieces using the same headline. Or the same gimmick, I should say. The Metro section's center package headline: "RED, WHITE & YOU." And from the Business section's center package: "RED, WHITE AND GRILLED."

Seeing something like that, you might think the newspaper is loaded with jaded drones. But reporter Mike Clary came to the rescue on the front page with an interesting, well-told story (still trying to find link) about two families who have lost sons in Iraq and how they "seek peace in different ways." It's a piece with essentially the same theme as the Palm Beach Post's lead Independence Day story, only it's beautifully reported and not rife with brainless jingoism.

From the ridiculous to the sublime and now back to the ridiculous, we have Society Monday Editor Carolyn Rush's column about freedom. Pointed out by my multiple-award-winning colleague Wyatt Olson, it begins with a call for unquestioning patriotism and then devolves into gibberish. To wit:

"Sadly, these days, patriotism is fading. The diversity of political beliefs in this country make for wonderful opportunities for compromise, but at times these compromises come at a very high cost. Maybe, if only for one day, we can all unite under the common belief that we as Americans do value our independence."

Yeah, I liked Rush better when she stuck to Up The River Cruises.

-- From the Palm Beach Post's home page: "Told you so Another insurance company might be heading out of business, which means 70,000 policies might need new homes."

Thank God for the Post's reporting. There's nothing quite as sad as a homeless insurance policy. It's teasing a relatively new "insurance blog" from Stephanie Horvath called "Gotcha Covered." Just what the world needed, flip blog items with catchy titles about tens of thousands people losing their home insurance.

-- Miami Herald reporter Monica Hatcher has an excellent article today on foreclosure rescue schemes. It brings to life an aspect of one of the most important issues of the year. Foreclosures are booming, causing untold pain. But Hatcher manages to tell some of it through one of her subject's eyes:

''It's the most horrible feeling you can imagine,'' Miller, 60, said about realizing she had signed her home away. "It's like somebody telling you they're going to cut both your legs off.''

The reporter explains how the scam works:

In most scenarios, the rescuer identifies a distressed homeowner from a list of foreclosures sold by county clerks' offices to private companies, and approaches them with an offer to stop foreclosure by refinancing or reinstating their mortgage.

.... older people, single women and minorities are the most fiercely targeted for these services, bombarded by mailings, phone calls and visits often before realizing a lender is moving to foreclose on them.

Using high-pressure sales tactics, such as the immediate sale of their home in a courthouse auction, the investor gets the homeowner to sign a lengthy contract, which often surreptitiously includes the deed to their home, a power of attorney, or a trust agreement.

Unsophisticated homeowners, Benjamin said, enter into the agreements believing they won't have to move, but don't realize they have given the investor full authority to evict them, sell the house and take the profit.

First blood-sucking mortgage companies, then these criminal vipers. Thanks for the story, Ms. Hatcher.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman

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