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The Roundup for April 27, 2012

Several items in the news have to do with that wretched economic “model” Austerity–you know, the one that devastates many while benefitting a very few.  To wit,

?And another one bites the dust:  The government of Romania, in office for only two months, has collapsed following a no-confidence vote.  “The opposition seized on public anger over austerity measures . . ..”  In response, Romania’s president “designated left-wing opposition leader Victor Ponta as new prime minister.”

?During March the unemployment rate in Spain was 24.4%, a record for the country and the highest in the EU.  That means 5,639,500 people were out of work.   According to the Bank of Spain,  the economy shrank 0.3% in the final quarter of 2011, followed by 0.4% in the first quarter of 2012.  Spain’s Foreign Minister decried “Spain is in a crisis of huge proportions”  and the HSBC chief economist warned that “a cycle similar to Greece is starting to develop.”  Austerity at work, folks!  More on Austerity at Work in the U.S. from Scarecrow.

?Those dismal data from Spain came hard on the heels of the announcement that Standard & Poor’s had downgraded Spain’s credit rating by two notches, to BBB+.  An article from the past on the rating companies and their impacts on economies came to mind:  “We treat the ratings agencies as if they were umpires. [ . . .]  But they are players, and not just players but speculators.”  And this: “The underlying struggle in European markets [. . .] is also between nation states and financial markets.  And in this struggle we should be on the side of the nation states, [. . .] because one day the markets will come for us too.”  Much more on the rating agencies and their impacts here.

?As Austerity deepens in Europe, misery sets in, reflected in its direst measure, suicide.  A study reported in Lancet used data available from ten EU countries (data were not available for the others) and linked to economic trends.  The authors noted that unemployment in those countries increased “rapidly, to about 35% above the 2007 level” immediately following the banking crisis and that “the steady downward trend in suicide rates [among people 0-64 years old . . .] before 2007, reversed at once.”  Only Austria bucked the trend.  “In each of the other countries the increase [in suicide] was at least 5%”.  More here, including US data.

?Pinkerton, always at the ready when working people get restless, it seems.  From the SF Gate:  “The world’s biggest banks are working with one another and police to gather intelligence as protestors try to rejuvenate the Occupy Wall Street movement with May demonstrations, industry security consultants said.”  A Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations global risk director explained that they will be working with “international financial firms to ‘identify, map and track’ protestors across social media and at their assemblies.”  His description was quite colorful, comparing the besieged banks to “elk fending off wolves in Yellowstone National Park . . ..”

?Contrary to what we were told last week by the US Treasury’s Tim Massad, TARP is unlikely to break even, let alone show a profit.  According to the report from the Office of Special Inspector General, “It is a widely held misconception that Tarp will make  a profit.  The most recent cost esimtate for Tarp is a loss of $60bn.  Taxpayers are still owed $118.5bn.”  So why’d Massad say that?

?At last.  “A nearly three-year-long investigation by Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats is expected to find there is little evidence the harsh ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ the CIA used on high-value prisoners produced counter-terrorism breakthroughs.”  More from Emptywheel on this.

?Almost “70% of guns recovered from Mexican criminal activity during the past five years and traced by the U.S. government originated from sales in the U.S.”  Between 2007 – 2011 the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives determined that 68,161 weapons were from the U.S.

?In addition to all the uproar over Argentina’s decision to expropriate YFP, the UK is now banning exports to Argentina’s armed forces so that “no British licensable exports or trade have the potential to be used by Argentina to impose an economic blockade” on the Falklands/Maldinas.

?In Montreal, the 11-week long demonstrations against rising tuition fees in Quebec have gotten louder as the government refused to continue meeting with one group of students, and the other groups walked out in protest of that.

?Not good.  Using ocean data from 1950 – 2000, Australian and U.S. scientists have “found that salinity levels had changed in oceans around the world over that time,” “that the earth’s water cycle has already spun up.”  Essentially, this means that wet areas around the globe will get wetter and dry areas will get drier.

?OK, all right, we’ve had it, enough already!  Apparently, the Secret Service has now been implicated in another scandal involving prostitutes, this one in El Salvador.  BTW, McClatchy has followed up on agents’ cavorting in Cartagena, Colombia’s “Portal of Sweets”, if you’re into that sort of thing.

?And here you go:  How income inequality works from a business perspective.

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