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The Roundup for April 24, 2012

Good evening/morning, Firepups!  If you’re looking for some news, we got it right here.

?Could it be that the people of Europe are onto the demon that’s been placed in their midst and will excise it?  Signs are definitely pointing in that direction, including the recent victory of the Socialist candidate Hollande over Sarkozy in France. And there’s more.

?In his thoughtful article, “Social Model is Europe’s Solution, Not Its Problem,”  French labor-union leader Paul Fourier assails “austerity”, arguing that “the malfunctions that caused” Europe’s financial crisis aren’t being addressed and, “Instead, they are forcing ordinary people to pay and attacking the social systems that support them.”  Related issues were also discussed here on Tuesday.

?In another sign of rejection of ‘Austerity’, The Netherlands government has collapsed with the resignation of Prime Minister Mark Rutte.  Elections will be scheduled soon, perhaps for late June.  Reacting to the “austerity” regimen, Geert Wilders of the Freedom Party would not agree to slashing 16 billion euros from the budget as required by EU rules, and withdrew from further budget talks.  Wilders argued “that the proposals would harm pensioners and affect growth”, would be in support of the “superstate that’s called Brussels” rather than the typical Dutch household, and he could not support “making ’14 billion in cuts in one year while at the same time transferring billions to Europe'”.

?The chipping away at the ‘Austerity’ model is having its effect on Angela Merkel, too.  “A German-inspired austerity regime agreed to just last month as the long-term solution to Europe sovereign debt crisis has come under increasing strain from the growing pressures of slowing economics, gyrating financial markets and a series of electoral setbacks.”  Interesting that “human suffering” was omitted from that list of growing pressures.  There’s also an article out this morning with a section entitled “Germany sinned'”, pointing out that “France and Germany broke the very rules they had insisted on for everyone else”, including, of course, Greece.

?Here in the US of A it’s not been called ‘Austerity’. Rather, we hear euphemistic terms such as ‘belt-tightening’, ‘trickle-down’, ‘gridlock’, ‘stimulating jobs’ (through corporate tax cuts), ‘welfare reform’, ‘NAFTA’ and the other trade agreements with similarly catchy titles, ‘saving the small businessman’ by getting rid of all those nasty rules and regulations which stifled growth, etc. ad nauseum. Those subtly-wrought changes, begun gradually but picking up pace over time, have reached maturity leading to the current situation where citizens are beset by the banksters, the mortgage mess, Citizens United and on and on.   Europeans are being shaken awake by the toll in human suffering and misery ‘Austerity’ demands–while their hard-earned money gets taken and whisked off to unimaginably large coffers elsewhere.  More and more people are awakening in the U.S. as well, though, and recent economic forecasts indicate that trend should continue.

?A new twofer has emerged, with  ALEC and Grover Norquist’s group having joined forces to “repeal state-level renewable energy targets.” Having already got legislation in the U.S. House “that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating toxic coal ash”, ALEC is planning on crafting some “model legislation” for the states.  Grover is urging his minions to ‘”speak out” against renewable energy promotion policies,” apparently using false claims about how expensive they are.

?Leon Panetta has pooh-poohed Iran’s claims to have cracked the code on that US drone they said they captured, and to be building a copy of it.  He made those statements in Bogota, Colombia, during a Latin American tour he’s making.  While in Bogota, he “announced the sale of 10 military helicopters to Colombia, including five Black Hawks, to help the government in its fight with FARC leftist rebels.”

?Remember old Soviet-style historical revisionism?  Well,  The Texas Board of Education has reportedly decided to “remove references to Thomas Jefferson from the state’s history books”.  They’ve also “refused to require that ‘students learn that the Constitution prevents the U.S. government from promoting one religion over all others'”, and approved other equally bizarre changes.  Why?  They “have certain statutory obligations to promote patriotism and to promote the free enterprise system.”  Words fail.

?Workers on the Xingu River dam in Brazil are on strike.  They want higher food allowances and the right to visit their families for nine days every three months rather than the current six.  This dam will be the third largest in the world.  Indigenous groups opposed to the dam were successful earlier in getting work on the dam halted, but the judge who ordered the halt has now reversed himself.  Depending on who you believe, the dam will displace between 16,000 to 40,000 people.

?A mixed economy for Cuba?  President Raul Castro has announced it will transfer 40% – 45% of economic activity from the government to “non-state” production. This transition is supposed to occur within four to five years, a relatively short time period that concerns some observers.

?Some excellent news for a change, folks:  “Honeybees are making a comeback in Iowa and Nebraska, researchers said.”

?Here’s what is dished up to children in school lunchrooms in 20 countries.  Hard to believe they still plop mashed potatoes down using the ice cream scoop, which was a major disappointment to a certain ice cream lovin’ kid back in the day.

?Wonder how many steps on the BP ladder separate Mix from Tony?  “Former BP engineer Kurt Mix, 50, is the first individual charged in connection with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Justice Department said Tuesday.” Mix allegedly delete a whole slew of text messages he had set to a supervisor and contractor about failures and fear of same during Operation Top Kill.

?There’s more pressure being put on the USDA to quit approving Frankenfoods.  Research results should be enough to convince them, but apparently not.

?Finally, the number of foreclosures in CA has declined, and sharply.  There were almost 18% fewer foreclosures in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the first quarter of 2011. The decline has been attributed to the decline in property values, which are relatively flat now, and also failure of a predicted second wave of foreclosures to materialize in the state.

?Finally, also, California voters will decide in November whether to (once again) abolish the death penalty (they voted to establish it in 1978).   Repealing the death penalty is opposed by the California District Attorneys Association.

?Public Policy Polling has some interesting results regarding Floridians’ views on the Trayvon Martin case.  Major, and very interesting, differences in responses occurred within age, gender and race categories, as well as by political party affiliations.

?Viva Iceberg!

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