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The Roundup for April 25, 2012

Here’s the wrap-up for Wednesday, beginning with the Eurozone and branching out from there.

?”Across Europe there are signs of revolt.” Yes there are, and May 6th should yield some very interesting verdicts on the ‘Austerity’ model in two of the euro countries, since elections will be held that day in both France and Greece.

?The back-and-forth over in the Eurozone is growing louder with Francois Hollande, the Socialist candidate for French president declaring “Budgetary responsibility?  Yes.  Austerity for life?  No.” Hollande proposes “to pool European debt to finance infrastructure projects and pass a financial transactions tax.”  ECB president Mario Draghi was quoted by Angela Merkel as having said “We need growth in the form of . . . structural reforms”–though she added that ‘growth’ did not include stimulus programs.  Draghi also clarified that this growth of which they speak “once again would necessarily entail some pain.”  Interesting how they fail to mention who will be bearing all this pain their policies will make “necessary”.  More here.

?Interest in the May 6 elections in Greece has been so intense that rules have been adjusted so more parties can receive campaign airtime.  For example, “State broadcaster ERT is obliged to carry a 45-minute interview with the leader of each party[,] will have to cover live one of the group’s public rallies[, and both] ERT and private channels will have to give each party two five-minute spots during their evening broadcasts and a total of 25 minutes for campaign ads.”

?Leaks, leaks, leaks.  Now the Vatican has set up a commission of three retired cardinals to investigate leaks of Vatican documents to the media in January and February of this year.  “The documents included private letters to the pope from an archbishop who was transferred to Washington after he blew the whistle on what he said was nepotism and cronyism in the awarding of contracts, and documents alleging internal conflicts about the Vatican bank.”  The Vatican bank, btw, is a euphemism for “The Institute for Works of Religion”.

?”U.S. non-financial corporate cash holdings rose to $1.24 trillion at the end of 2011, Moody’s Investors Service said Wednesday.”  At the top of the heap were Apple, Microsoft, Cisco, Google and Pfizer, representing 22% of the total.  Others noted as doing very well were Johnson & Johnson, Amgen, Chevon, Exxon and ConocoPhillips. Almost 60% of the corporate cash is stashed overseas.  Gee, I wonder where exactly.

?Kick ’em when they’re down.  A medical debt collection corporation called Accretive Health is apparently using disturbing tactics, such as appearing at patients’ bedsides, even in the ER and Recovery, and demanding to know when payment will be forthcoming.  Minnesota’s attorney general is investigating such practices which allegedly include even  discouraging patients from seeking emergency care at all. I cruised over to Muckety and learned that among Accretive’s directors is one George Schultz.

?Our Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is looking into those little gotchas called “arbitration clauses” tucked away in the myriad lines of contractual fine print you have to agree to in order to open a bank account, get a credit card, cell phone, and so forth. Turns out, the arbitrators called forth to render solemn judgment when there’s a dispute between you and the corporation are hand-selected by those very same  corporations.  No wonder “a study found that corporations won 94 percent of the arbitration proceedings.”  More here, including a ink to provide public comment to the CFPB on this “shadow corporate justice system”.

?Rick Scott, governor of FL, has “vetoed $1.5 million for the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence” which was allocated by the Legislature “to support 30 rape crisis centers . . ..”  The Executive Director of the Council expressed shock at Scott’s actions.  For his part, Scott has said he uses his vetoes for items that “weren’t a good use of taxpayers’ money and did not serve a statewide need.”  That’ll mean so much  to the women in Florida who’ve been raped, Rick.

?Meanwhile, up in Connecticut, “Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a bill into law Wednesday that abolishes the death penalty, making his state the 17th in the nation to abandon capital punishment and the fifth in five years to usher in a repeal.”  Although it does not retroactively include those already on death row, CT has executed only two people over the past 52 years.

?Three residents of Colleyville, TX, whose homes are 1100 – 1700 feet from a Titan fracking site, decided to take matters into their own hands and purchased air emissions monitoring services.  Initial results indicate “several potential violations of Colleyville’s drilling ordinance and state regulations . . ..”  You’d think residents of places with ordinances and regulations covering potentially dangerous activities wouldn’t have to take monitoring into their own hands, paid for out of their own pockets, but . . .

?Vietnam’s Mekong Delta faces “rising sea levels and salt water ingress”, imperiling the major rice crop there.  International Rice Research Institute scientists are attempting to develop a strain of rice that will survive under the new conditions in the Delta which “accounts for nearly half of the 42 million tons” of rice that Vietnam produces annually.  And it’s not just climate change having an impact; it’s also human-made, including the four dams China built on the Mekong.

?Our friends the bees are back in the news today. “Monsanto, the massive biotechnology company being blamed for contributing to the dwindling bee population, has bought up one of the leading bee collapse research organizations.”  The purchase of Beelogics by Monsanto occurred fairly quietly back in September, 2011.  Some, such as Steve Censky of the American Soybean Association, apparently view this as “a move to help Monsanto and other biotechnology giants squash competition and make profits.  After all, who cares about public health?”  Or bees either, I guess.

?The International Energy Agency’s deputy director, Richard Jones, is pleading with leading energy ministers to “Please take our warning seriously.”  Jones is hopeful that the global temperature rise can be kept at 2C “but only if nations co-operated urgently on clean technology.” Reluctance to participate in carbon capture and storage, it seems, is because the billions that will have to expended in the effort will “not actually provide energy . . ..”  What?

?Detroit will have a three-mile light railway connecting downtown to the New Center.  A private-sector group of investors and philanthropic organizations has “raised all of the money it will need to build the line–and is pledging to fund the operations of the system privately for the first 10 years after it’s built.”  The $5.1 million the group, M-1 Rail, has pledged would be supplemented with $40 million in federal funds. Both Mayor Dave Bing and Gov. Rick Snyder had opposed the larger 8-mile project, but finally supported this smaller version.

?Oh, noes!  Four TSA employees at the Los Angeles International Airport have been charged by federal prosecutors for allegedly taking “thousands of dollars in bribes to look the other way while drug shipments slipped through security checkpoints.”  Two of the screeners had been dismissed by the TSA over the past two years, but the other two were still on the payroll.

?Not all those Secret Service agents availed themselves of sexual services in Colombia the other week.  No siree.  Turns out, some were simply too drunk for such activity, so there! (BTW, HSA Secretary Janet Napolitano told the Senate Judiciary Committee the agency “had received no complaints about similar activity”, although one agent told the Post “This is not the first time.” So, who you gonna believe?)

?Concerned that you have nothing to wear that has “a clean profile and fabric that provides comfort and flexibility” and will also stylishly conceal your handgun?  Well, fret no more, for America’s clothing manufacturers are coming to the rescue with clothing described as “‘concealed carry’ or ‘covert fashion.‘”  Yeah, I can hardly contain my excitement either at the prospect of joining the ranks of those who ‘”dress for the gun, [rather than] for the fashion.”‘

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