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Mortgage applications drop though rates decline

NEW YORK (AP) -- Mortgage applications volume dropped off by 5.9 percent last week even as mortgage rates decreased, a sign the housing market is struggling with government incentives, according to a report Wednesday from the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Refinancing activity fell 7.3 percent on an adjusted basis during the week ending June 18, compared with the previous week. Purchase volume slipped 1.2 percent.

Customers looking to refinance existing mortgages accounted for 73.8 percent of total applications, down from 74.8 percent the previous week.

The average rate for a traditional, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage decreased to 4.75 percent last week from 4.82 percent the previous week. The average interest rate on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, which is often more popular with refinance customers, fell to 4.19 percent from 4.23 percent.

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Foreclosure ban announced

NEW YORK (AP) -- Government-sponsored mortgage purchaser Fannie Mae is trying to encourage distressed homeowners to find alternatives to foreclosure by banning those who walk away from getting new loans for seven years.

Troubled borrowers who do not try in good faith to work out a deal, but have the capacity to pay, are targeted by the policy announced Wednesday.

"Walking away from a mortgage is bad for borrowers and bad for communities and our approach is meant to deter the disturbing trend toward strategic defaulting," said Terence Edwards, executive vice president for credit portfolio management.

A strategic default occurs when a homeowner stops making payments on a mortgage despite being able to do so. It has become increasingly common in communities where housing values fell sharply and homeowners are "underwater," or owe more than their houses are worth.

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Verizon readies Droid X

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Verizon Wireless said Wednesday that it will begin selling the Droid X, the follow-up to Motorola Inc.'s popular Droid smart phone, on July 15.

Verizon, which made its announcement the day before Apple is set to start selling its latest iPhone, said the phone will cost $200 with a rebate and two-year wireless service contract.

The Droid X runs Google Inc.'s Android software and has a touch screen that is 4.3 inches diagonally and an 8-megapixel camera with a dual flash that can also record high-definition videos. It will also have an HDMI port so you can connect it to a TV and watch content stored on the phone on a bigger screen.

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Judge sides with Google

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A federal judge sided with Google Inc. on Wednesday in a $1 billion copyright lawsuit filed by media company Viacom Inc. over YouTube videos, saying the service promptly removed illegal materials as required under federal law.

The ruling in the closely watched case further affirmed the protections offered to online service providers under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Viacom Inc. had alleged that YouTube, which Google bought for $1.76 billion in 2006, built itself into the world's largest video-sharing site by promoting the unlicensed use of video taken from Viacom cable channels such as MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon.

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Driver rehab offered

AAA Western and Central New York and the Erie County Medical Center Corp. are teaming up to offer driver rehabilitation services for at-risk seniors and drivers with special needs.

The program will offer driver evaluation and training for individuals who may have undergone a change in driving ability due to illness, injury or aging. Evaluations are conducted by specially trained and certified occupational therapists.

The program can also assess individuals' abilities and recommend needed or helpful vehicle modifications to help adapt a car to a driver's special needs. For more information, call 898-3225 or send an e-mail todriveinfo@ecmc.edu.

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