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斗狗, 次级贷危机

(2007-11-02 15:10:39)
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亚特兰大橄榄球运动员因为斗狗被拘:Nancy Gay on the NFL: Vick's travails have galvanized the people of Atlanta

Broach(提出/开始讨论) the subject of Michael Vick at the 71 Barbershop理发店 in Atlanta's fashionable Buckhead neighborhood and you'll hear any number of differing opinions, much like the diverse clientele(各种各样的客人) that patronizes(光顾) this stylish时尚 but laid-back(松驰的,懒散的)shop on Piedmont Road.

"His name comes up in here every day," owner and master barber Carlos Mahone, 35, said, "and someone always has something to say about it." It's no wonder. Rarely has a single sports star/celebrity/public figure demolished(粉粹摧毁) a city's psyche(心智心灵) the way Vick has splintered(裂成碎片, 分裂) Atlanta, one of America's most culturally mixed cities.

He was the face of the hip, vibrant center of the New South, a young successful, highly marketable black quarterback who made the moribund(垂死的) Falcons a playoff contender.

Signed to a 10-year, $130 million contract in December 2004, Vick had enormous star power. The Falcons, an NFL franchise formerly synonymous同义的 with last place末席 and sagging attendance, claimed they had season-ticket季票 waiting list of "over 90,000 fans" in the team's 2007 media guide.

All of that changed in the span of a few months几个月的时间里.

Proof can be found in front of TV sets in Atlanta on Sunday, where fans won't see the Falcons. The 1-6 team failed to sell out its game against the 49ers (2-5) at the Georgia Dome; the franchise didn't even ask the NFL for a 24-hour extension. It's the Falcons' first local television blackout(为确保赛票的售出而限制或禁止转播体育赛事) in six years, spanning 43 consecutive regular-season games.

But the scandal and dysfunction that brought this on has been boiling since spring, about the same time Atlanta found itself literally drying up amid a devastating 100-year drought that already had cast worry over the city.

In late April, federal agents acting on long-standing tips长期的线人 raided a Virginia home owned by Vick. They found dog carcasses(指动物的尸体) and evidence of a dogfighting and a gambling enterprise, known as "Bad Newz Kennels", on the property, as well as dozens of caged and injured dogs.

On July 17, Vick and three other men were indicted on federal charges related to illegal dogfighting斗狗. Among the charges, prosecutors alleged that under-performing表现不佳的 dogs were executed by various methods including drowning, hangings, beatings and electrocution电死. The indictment accused Vick of participating in some of the killings.

That same week, the Falcons - already adjusting to a new head coach, Bobby Petrino -opened training camp at their headquarters in Flowery Branch, Ga., knowing their playmaking quarterback, their leader who rushed for a record 1,039 yards in 2006, was suspended for four games by the NFL.

"At that point," free safety Chris Crocker said, "you knew everything on this team had changed forever, that we had to stick together no matter what. Because we were in for some tough times."

Vick's associates copped pleas and he pleaded guilty to a federal dogfighting charge Aug. 27. In September, a Virginia grand jury indicted Vick and three co-defendants on counts of killing dogs and promoting dogfights.

"There is a really huge racial divide in Atlanta on this," said Mahone, who is black. "It seems as if more black people are on Michael Vick's side, and more Caucasian people are standing on the side of, 'Hey, what he did was terrible; he broke the law and he violated his contract and deserves the consequences.

House Wrecked? What to do if the foreclosure crisis hits close to home. from rd.com

Credit Crisis(信用危机)
Brad Hicks, 26, and his wife, Stephanie, 33, waited years to buy their first home. Once they did, the bottom fell out almost overnight.

The couple earned less than $40,000 in 2006 between her clerical job and his work on his father's dairy farm, where they lived in a small house while looking for one they could afford. Last fall, they signed a contract to buy a new three-bedroom ranch on an acre and a half near Roanoke, Virginia. It was a stretch, but they were ready to have children and wanted to raise them in a home of their own.

The house wasn't finished, so the Hickses, relying on advice from a builder and a local mortgage broker, arranged for financing to cover the $204,000 purchase price of a new modular home (including $40,000 for the land). The couple, who didn't have to make a down payment(头期款,购买时的部分付款余额后付 A partial payment made at the time of purchase, with the balance to be paid later), were told that a short-term loan with a steep(过高的)10.24 percent interest rate would cover construction costs. Once they moved in, that loan was to be rolled over into a subprime mortgage that allowed interest-only payments for the first ten years. That, they believed, would allow them to meet their housing budget of $1,000 per month. Covering the payments would require significant sacrifices, but realizing the dream of owning a home made it worthwhile.

Just weeks after taking possession this past March, though, the Hickses found themselves smack(被掌击) in the crosshairs((瞄准镜)十字准线) of the country's spreading credit crisis. With the subprime market collapsing, their lender rescinded the originally promised loan. Credit was drying up for no-down-payment deals like the one they had been offered, and they were presented with new mortgage terms贷款条件 that called for a $1,700 monthly payment. The couple were devastated.

Says Stephanie, "We couldn't afford that."

This year, the rate of homes in foreclosure(丧失抵押品赎回权) has risen to an all-time high. To help ease the pain for homeowners and lenders, the Federal Reserve cut the prime interest rate in September. Still, with a stagnant real estate market and the stark reality of hundreds of thousands of homeowners whose mortgages call for higher interest payments, some experts think the worst may be yet to come最糟糕的情况还没有来.

So more and more homeowners are facing tough choices about their most valuable asset. Those with adjustable rate mortgages who want to keep their homes—the majority of the ones being squeezed—will have to make big sacrifices: no new cars or computers, and fewer vacations and meals out(出去吃饭) (and forget extras like an upgrade to a flat-panel TV平板电视). And when consumer spending softens, the entire economy suffers. For the first time in years, economists are tossing around the R word: recession. For homeowners caught in the crunch(1、危急情况 a year-end crunch年底的危急状况; an energy crunch能源危机 2、经济收缩, 以贷钱困难和信用无效为特征的财政困难时期, the impact is more personal. It can mean complete financial ruin.

The Hangover(残留, 遗物, 宿醉)
What the Hickses endured was an accelerated version of the common subprime scenario. A higher interest rate and monthly payment made their new house unaffordable. They tried to sell it for the amount they'd borrowed, but the housing bubble had burst. They couldn't attract any buyers. Before long不久以后 they were several thousand dollars in debt. Foreclosure came swiftly. By April, they'd been forced to vacate腾空 their home, declare bankruptcy, move into a small apartment and rethink their plans to start a family.

The couple's new challenge: to rebuild their credit history, not an easy task considering the harsh new penalties for bankruptcy. To make matters worse, the stress brought on by their real estate fiasco惨败 made Stephanie so physically ill, she had to stop working. The young couple's dream of owning a home now seems out of reach. "It's terrible language, but we got screwed," says Stephanie. "We trusted a lot of people who really took our trust for granted."

While the Hickses' case may not be typical in its details, it does share key elements with those of other homeowners now suffering the consequences of the credit crisis: The couple probably took on more than they could handle, should have recognized the risks more clearly, and hardly got the best advice about what they could afford. They were typical in another way. As real estate prices continued to rise, the Hickses, like millions of other would-be homeowners, figured they should buy before it was too late and they were priced out of the market.

Between 2001 and 2006, home prices rose by more than 55 percent nationwide. Fueling this staggering boom, we now know, were lenders and brokers who said yes to just about any borrower. The usual obstacles to getting a loan—a bad credit history, lack of a down payment, insufficient income, even the absence of a pay stub存根 to verify income—often did not stand in the way. Mortgages were plentiful and cheap, and came with adjustable terms that were once considered exotic: an initially affordable low interest rate that shot up after two years, for instance. Plenty of risk takers also got caught in the bubble, trying to exploit the situation by buying a home and then flipping it at a higher price.

Now comes the hangover. And it can be brutal.

"People were encouraged to buy houses they couldn't afford, or to wrap all their debts into a mortgage, or to take equity out of their house and use it for vacation or even a big-screen TV," says David Rose, director of research and technology at the National Training and Information Center in Chicago, which helps organize community housing groups. "They didn't realize that if they default on the mortgage, they could lose the house."

Hapless倒霉的 Homeowners
There may be a way out for some hapless homeowners. Stung by the foreclosure surge and mounting pressure from state and federal lawmakers, lenders are increasingly willing to work with delinquent( 拖欠债务的) borrowers because they don't want to be stuck with so many foreclosed homes. They may lower an interest rate or waive放弃 thousands of dollars in prepayment penalties(提前预付罚金) that can otherwise prevent refinancing.

In some cases, lenders may even agree to a "short sale卖空," in which they accept less than the full amount due on the mortgage if a house can be sold for an amount close to what's owed. The key to getting mortgage relief is acting quickly and proving the ability to repay the debt with a modified loan.

The mortgage mess is so bad that many large lenders have beefed up(补充人力) staffs dedicated to(致力于,专门) working out troubled loans. In April, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, one of the nation's largest lenders, said it had enrolled more than 30,000 borrowers in a special financial education program aimed at helping them learn how to manage debt. About the same time, Washington Mutual said it would refinance at discounted interest rates up to $2 billion in subprime loans.

Homeowners with a fixed mortgage固定利率贷款 have taken their hits too—and some have found their way out of trouble. In 2000 Kathy Bauer, a divorced single mother with a teenage daughter, bought a 2,700-square-foot house in Fort Collins, Colorado. At the time, she had a new job in sales and marketing for a company that makes art reproductions. She took out a traditional 30-year, fixed-rate, low-interest mortgage. The payment: just over $1,000 a month.

But a year into owning the house, Bauer's insurance agent called with alarming news. The homeowner's insurance policy was about to be canceled because the premium保险费 had not been paid. Her lender, Bauer says, had failed to figure the premiums—and property taxes—into her monthly bill. "My payment went up $300 a month to take care of the arrears欠账."

Bauer struggled along, but by spring 2006, just as the real estate bubble was beginning to burst, she decided she couldn't afford to keep her home. She tried to sell and move into something cheaper but didn't get a nibble(轻咬、犹豫地小口咬着吃) for months. Meanwhile, she fell behind on her mortgage payments. To help, she took in boarders and worked out a new payment plan with her lender, but she still couldn't catch up. When she fell six months behind, the foreclosure notice arrived.

"I would wake up at 5 a.m. hyperventilating and in terror," Bauer says.

She called a local counseling agency, Neighbor to Neighbor, which advised her to move aggressively to sell the house. It was a desperate step but, if successful, would keep a foreclosure off her credit record—a big deal in itself. Bauer put the house back on the market, priced $30,000 below what she thought it was worth. But within two weeks, she had two offers.

"I sold it for what I'd purchased it for," she says, "but that's what I had to do." A $10,000 loan from her mother helped satisfy her debt. In April, she and her daughter moved into a more affordable apartment. Being forced to sell the home, she says, made her feel "embarrassed and ashamed." Once she focused on being able to avoid foreclosure, she felt something else.

"I'm a survivor."

Steps You Can Take
If you can't pay, call—and do it as soon as you sense a problem感觉到问题. You've got a better chance of working out a repayment plan if you aren't buried under months of unpaid bills.

Answer any mail from your lender. Early letters can offer options that help avoid foreclosure. Those that come later won't. (And saying you didn't check your mail won't help in court.)

Get an expert on your side. You can get advice on avoiding foreclosure from a housing counselor approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Search for one locally at hud.gov/counseling or call 800-569-4287.

Build a file. Collect pay stubs, layoff notices, medical bills and any other papers that document income or temporary lack of income. It may help justify changes to your loan.

Make copies of all documents you provide to the lender while making your case. In the rush of troubled borrowers, papers can get lost.

Deal with the lender's loss mitigation department. That's where you'll find people with the power and the motivation to help.

Ask the lender to waive prepayment penalties for refinancing. Some will consider doing so if it results in the loan being paid off, usually preferable to another default. (A foreclosure can cost a lender up to $50,000.)

Do not work with anyone who asks you to sign a "quitclaim deed(产权转让契约)." Such a document hands over ownership of your home. If in doubt, review any offers of assistance with a HUD-certified housing counselor.

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