CommunityThe Bullpen

The Roundup for April 20, 2012

? As if to ease any separation anxiety we might be experiencing during DDay’s well-deserved vacation, Berlusconi popped up in the news today. He’s making “a rare appearance at his trial in Milan for paying for sex with an underage girl called Ruby.”

? The “Jump Out Boys”, members of LA County Sheriff’s “elite gang unit”, are admired for being “hard-charging, aggressive deputies who gain more respect after being involved in a shooting . . ..” This heretofore secret clique is now under investigation, according to the LA Times.

? Bartering in the time of austerity: citizens of the Greek town of Volos have created an on-line system using a local currency called TEMS for providing each other with needed goods and services. “People sign up for a TEMs network account, see what services they might offer to other folks in their area who are in need, and start amassing credits that can be cashed in for things they themselves need. TEMs can be used for everything from bakers to babysitters, teachers to technicians. In theory, the value of one TEM is equal to the value of one Euro.”

? In the Public Interest has identified 27 corporations which contribute to ALEC but do not pay state taxes. (YUM! Brands is among them, although we learned just yesterday that the company has withdrawn from ALEC.) The remaining ones include DuPont, Dow Corning, Merck, Boeing, Comcast, Monsanto, and GE. All total, the corporations “booked $69 billion in profit that escaped taxation . . ..”

? U.S. corn farmers have stepped up to the plate, noting that they are “at the front lines of global warming–it’s a grave threat to rural livelihoods and quality of life”, and are urging support of EPA efforts to reduce pollution. Recent reports show that, in the past year, Missouri River floods resulted in $200 million in crop damages in IA, drought led to a loss of $7 billion to farmers in TX, and an abrupt shift from extremely wet to extremely dry weather led to reduction of a billion bushels of corn harvested in the MidWest.

? In a non-binding resolution, the European Parliament has now condemned Argentina’s nationalizing the oil company YPF, stating that action was an “attack on the exercise of free enterprise”. Shares in the Spanish firm Repsol, which had a majority stake in YPF, have been in decline all week. YPF was put under private ownership in 1993, major shale oil and gas deposits were discovered last year, and Argentina moved to acquire 51% of YPF just recently. Repsol is also arguing that Argentina’s action has rendered certain financial agreements moot. Meanwhile, Argentina wants Brazil to increase its state-owned Petrobras’ investment in the Argentine market from 8% to 15%.

? Socialist Francois Hollande has a good lead over incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy in the French polls, as their campaigns in France wind down. Nonetheless, it seems about a quarter of voters haven’t yet made up their minds, leading to talk of a “Sunday surprise”. Stay tuned.

? The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released March unemployment data. The nationwide unemployment rate was 8.2% in March 2012. The West continues to be hardest hit (9.6% overall, though down from 10.5% in March 2011). NY, CA and AZ had largest increases in the number of employed with OH, NJ and WI having the largest decreases in employed persons.

? The great U.S. income chasm is just got greater, with corporate heads now bringing home an unprecedented 380 times what the average worker makes. (In contrast, in 1980, CEOs earned “only” 42 times more.) Meanwhile, one shareholder of Citigroup seems to be fed up and has filed suit over the huge salaries the Chief Executive and directors have awarded to top executives. This followed on the action of 55% of the shareholders earlier in the week who rejected (advisory vote, btw) the pay package for the CEO, Vikram Pandit.

? Russia’s Natural Resources and Ecology Minister is prepared to sue BP over pipeline leaks in the Ob and Yenisei Rivers. The Natural Resources and Ecology Minister means business–in 2006 Shell was forced to pay up for breaking environmental laws by having to sell down its 55% share in Russia’s Gazprom.

? Is your name on the list? Obama for America and Obama Victory Fund 2012 Volunteer Fundraisers are right here. (No, my name isn’t on there, either.)

? ALEC’s voter ID efforts have been shifted over to an outfit connected to the Abramoff years–The National Center for Public Policy Research. The chairperson of the group was determined by Senate investigators to have “directed money received by the NCPPR at Abramoff’s direction” and the agency “covered the cost of several of former Rep. Tom Delay’s overseas junkets”. No prob, however–no charges were ever brought.

? Keith B. Quigley, Commonwealth Court Judge, has refused to let two top state Republicans and “a collection of industry trade associations and companies” participate in a case challenging the constitutionality of the state’s Marcellus Shale Law. The challenge was brought by a private physician and the Delaware Riverkeepers Network.

? The quest for profits leads to some strange bed-fellows. Both American Water and Aqua America, major water suppliers in PA (and elsewhere), are active participants in efforts to expand fracking. Why? Both firms stand to profit by selling water for use in hydraulic fracturing–huge amounts of it.

? Don’t be so quick to scoff at the lowly penny. If you’d saved that one from 1792, you’d be $1.15 million richer today.

? Lurking in the wings: JEB?

That’s it from my stash for this Friday. Hope you’ll share items from yours.

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