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The Roundup for May 1, 2012

International Workers Day!  It began as a commemoration of the 1886 Haymarket Riot in Chicago.  Many countries around the globe recognize it as the annual official holiday honoring labor on May 1st.  But not in the U.S., where it began  Instead, we celebrate Labor Day in September–precisely because of the memory of the Haymarket Riot.  Lots going on today.  Kevin Gosztola over at The Dissenter has been feverishly working to cover as much of it as possible.

Meanwhile, in other news:

?”Profit from Pain Is Inhumane”–a rallying cry  from the United Methodist Task Force in Tampa which is protesting the burgeoning private prison system around these United States.  According to Bishop Minerva Carcano, “Is this an immigration rally or is this a prison rally?  It is a justice rally.”

?Four NYC Council members, among others, filed suit in Manhattan federal court “over the handling of Occupy Wall Street protestors, claiming the police used excessive force . . . made false arrests and violated free-speech rights of protestors and journalists last year . . ..”  Defendants in the suit include JP Morgan, Brookfield Office Properties (Zucotti Park) and Mayor Bloomberg.   In addition to that suit, five demonstrators have also sued NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly “and various officers for detaining them in an interlocking metal barricade during a protest” though no one was ever charged with anything.

?The U.S. homeownership rate is now 64.5% , the lowest it’s been in 15 years.  And the rate among people under 35 years of age is as low as it was 18 years ago.  “You are seeing the perfect storm of age, financing and the business cycle coming together to push down the homeownership rate,” said Steve Blitz, ITG Investment Research chief economist.  Well, I think we could add a few more factors such as high unemployment/underemployment, the huge mortgage mess as continuously documented by DDay on these pages, and others as well.

?There is some positive economic news to report, particularly for public employees  nearing retirement:  state and local pension funds in the U.S. increased in value by 10.6% in 2010.  In CA, which accounts for about 20% of public pension funds, the increase was 12.4% of assets.

?Mixed showings about changes in the U.S. economy for March, though the headline is rosy:  “US manufacturing expands at fastest pace in 10 months, as economy shows resilience”.  As factory hiring increased, so did new orders for goods.  Nonetheless, factory output fell, construction “edged up 0.1 percent”, consumers held back on automobile and large appliance purchases, and “incomes are barely growing”.

?And now the Interior Department shows toward which side it leans.  “Natural-gas companies drilling on U.S. land would be permitted to wait until after hydraulic fracturing is completed to disclose what chemicals they used, under a draft rule being considered by the U.S. Interior Department.”  An earlier draft in Feb specified that “a complete chemical makeup” be made public “at least 30 days before work began”, but industry groups objected and Interior acquiesced.

?Hyundai announced it is going to add a third shift to its AL assembly plant, which equals 877 additional jobs.  Hyundai wants to do that rather than build a new factory in the US “because of the expense, and fears that it could affect the quality of its vehicles . . ..”

?This has become a fast-moving see-saw.  Now a judge on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed yesterday’s lower court ruling, and says that TX’s Women’s Health Program can indeed ban funding for Planned Parenthood and any of its affiliates.

?A new epidemic is upon us! “The number of babies born in the US showing symptoms of opiate withdrawal increased threefold” between 1999-2009 according  to a study reported in JAMA, while “the number of pregnant women testing positive for illegal or legal opiates increased fivefold . . ..”  Typically, babies born addicted “were often born earlier and smaller, suffered seizures, restlessness, breathing problems or difficulty feeding”, and required over two weeks of hospitalization following birth.   Why are these young women abusing opiates?

?In Peru, tensions between mining interests and the needs of the people for clean water are intensifying.  Over the past year, “protests have temporarily halted a number of mining projects . . ..”  The month-long March of the Water protest which began in Cajamarca reached Lima on February 9th.  The March was primarily comprised of peasant farmers in the Andes who are threatened by the water use by mines.

?Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, is completing nationalization of the electricity sector “by seizing control of its main power-grid from a Spanish-owned company”, Red Electrica Corporacio SA.  In the 1990s, Peru’s public-sector electricity plants were turned over to the private sector.  ‘”Just to make it clear to national and international public opinion, we are nationalizing a company that previously was ours,’ Morales said.”  Meanwhile, Peruvians are concerned “over rising consumer prices, lower domestic oil production and discontent over government plans to build a highway through a lowlands nature preserver inhabited by Indians.”

?Nine months after the investigation began, the UK House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee yesterday released its report on “News International and Phone-hacking”.  In the “Conclusions and next steps” section, the Committee side-stepped “conclusions about the evidence of any individual who has been arrested . . . to risk prejudicing any future criminal trial” but did name a few others who were found, shall we say, less than truthful.  At the corporate level, the News of the World and News International were found to be misleading, making false statements, and hiding key documents, such that “Their instinct throughout, until it was too late, was to cover up rather than seek out wrongdoing . . ..”  Specific comments were directed to Rupert Murdoch and son James, who, the report stated, “should ultimately be prepared to take responsibility . . ..”  There’s been quite a dispute over stating that “Rupert Murdoch was “not a fit person” to run a major international business,” however, with Committee members split along those all-too-familiar “party lines”.

?Life’s not always a day at the beach.  A New York judge has ruled the civil lawsuit by Nafissatou Diallo (the hotel maid) against Dominique Strauss-Kahn (who allegedly  raped her back in May 2011) can proceed to trial, that “diplomatic immunity did not apply” to DSK on that date.  Judge McKeon wrote, “Confronted with well settled law that his voluntary resignation from the IMF terminated any immunity which he enjoyed . . . Mr. Strauss-Kah, threw (legally speaking, that is) his own version of a ‘Hail Mary pass'”.

?She was an immigrant from Ireland who married a union organizer in Memphis prior to the Civil War, suffered the loss of her entire family to Yellow Fever, returned to Chicago and became passionately aligned with the labor movement, particularly the miners. She was a fiery and formidable opponent, characterized by the West Virginia DA during a trial in 1902 as follows:  “There sits the most dangerous woman in America.  She crooks her finger–twenty thousand contended men lay down.”  She met face-to-face with John D. Rockefeller–and won.  You can’t study the early U.S. labor movement without her, nor vice versa. My favorite quote of hers: “No matter what the fight, don’t be lady-like.”  Mother Jones.

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