Value of US homes continues to fall


JNN 12 Dec 2010 : The value of homes in the US is poised to drop as much as 1.7 trillion dollars or seven percent of their total value by the end of the year.

The home market will be worth USD 22.7 trillion by the end of this year.

“Despite a strong start to 2010, by the end of the year homes lost more of their value in 2010 than they did in 2009,” said Stan Humphries, Zillow real estate data firm’s chief economist.

According to the firm, losses come in more than 60 percent higher than last year’s. Since the peak in 2006, US homes have lost a massive 9 trillion dollars in value through the end of 2009. This figure amounts to more than 60 percent of the US annual economic output.

The firm has blamed accelerated foreclosures and negative equity for real estate value deprecation in America. Experts still forecast a declining trend through next year.

Homeowners are now demanding lower property taxes worth billions at a time when municipalities are being forced to cut services, Bloomberg reported.

β€œThe full weight of the decline in housing values has yet to hit the budgets of many cities and property tax revenues will likely decline further in 2011 and 2012,” a National League of Cities report stated in October.

In the previous year, homeowners saw equity values fall by USD 1 trillion versus 2008. Economists say home values will not see a true recovery in the next three to five years.


US steps up pressure on Latino Muslims


JNN 12 Dec 2010 : US officials have been increasingly concerned about more Latinos converting to Islam, with increased monitoring and high profile cases appearing in the media.

The recent case of Antonio Martinez — a young Latino man charged with plotting to blow up a military recruitment center near Baltimore, Maryland — has garnered much media interest.

Reports say that Martinez, who is a Muslim convert, was entrapped by FBI undercover agents that led the young Latino to collaborate in an alleged attempt to bomb the military compound.

“It’s [not only] the nature of these individuals but also their case studies, the substantive dimensions of their work, and who they are in contact with, and what they represent that I think is why Latino converts have garnered some attention,” NPR quoted former Deputy National Security Adviser to the Bush administration Juan Zarate as saying in regard to Martinez.

Thousands of Latinos — a community predominately Catholic — have converted to Islam nationwide. The Latino community stands as the fastest-growing minority group in the United States, while Islam is the fast-growing religion.

The Muslim community has criticized the FBI for racial profiling. FBI tactics include spying on worshippers at mosques and entrapment by undercover agents.

One case has involved an undercover FBI informant and an ex-convict in Irvine, California, named Craig Monteilh. Members of a mosque that he infiltrated obtained a restraining order against him after he kept talking about carrying out violent activities.
Monteilh is now suing the FBI and has gone public with details of how he was trained to spy and entrap people.

“They got a guy, a bona fide criminal, and obviously trained him and sent him to infiltrate mosques,” said Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California.

“And when things went sour, they ditched him and he got mad,” Syed added.