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The Roundup for May 3, 2012

Before you know it, the weekend will be here!  In the interim, here’s some news.

?Seems the last time we heard the phrase “pre-emptive strike” things did not end well.  “Russia says it is prepared to use ‘destructive force preemptively’ if the US goes ahead with controversial plans for a missile defense system based in Central Europe”–a “warning from the Russian defense minister [who] said talks on missile defense were nearing a dead end.”

?It’s anybody’s guess what the situation will be once 2014 rolls around, but that agreement signed by Obama and Karzai a couple of days ago leaves open the possibility of 25,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan past 2014.

?”Unemployment in the euro zone rose to a new high in March “. . . to 10.9 percent [or] 17 million jobless people . . .. Manufacturing in the zone hit a 34-month low in April”.  Mario Draghi, ECB president, reacted “that countries like Greece and Spain should redouble their effort to make their economies function better, for example by making it easier to start a business or for employers to dismiss workers.”  Ah, yes, redouble those efforts that have worked so well to date.

?Jay Rockefeller has written a letter to Brian Leveson, in charge of the major inquiry into the Murdoch scandals in the UK, asking about possible illegal activities of News International in the U.S.  “More generally, I would like to know whether News International or any other News Corporation business used hacking, bribing, or other similar tactics when operating in the United States.”  The entire letter is here.

?According to a deposition by James O’Keefe, Andrew Breitbart paid O’Keefe $65,000 to blog about the video that led to the firing of ACORN employee Juan Carlos Vera and loss of federal funding for ACORN.  This potentially leaves Bretibart’s estate open to suit since CA privacy laws were violated in the process.  As for O’Keefe, “Despite being granted immunity for turning over all the video, a [state investigation] report said he likely violated privacy laws.”

?Spain has demanded “fair payment” for the Spanish company Red Electrica’s “costs invested in the electrical grid” in Bolivia which Bolivian President Evo Morales just nationalized.  His action followed Argentina’s nationalization of the oil firm YPF, a subsidiary of Spain’s Repsol company. Those actions are causing quite a stir–“‘Actions like this one necessarily send a negative signal to international investors over the business and investment climate in Bolivia,”‘ said European Commission trade spokesman John Clancy.”

?The World Health Organization released the “first country-by-country global comparison of premature births” yesterday.  Incredibly,  “the United States is similar to developing countries in the percentage of mothers who give birth before their children are due . . ..”  Contributing factors include the pregnancy rate among teens and women 35+ and higher rates of “obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure . . . ” as well as the lack of health insurance resulting in delay of pre-natal care.  Nonetheless, the cause of the U.S. rate remains something of a mystery.

?Disparity between the US and other highly industrialized counties in terms of health is not confined to premature births.  According to The Commonwealth Fund, “While the U.S. performs well on breast and colorectal cancer survival rates, it has among the highest rates of potentially preventable deaths from asthma and amputations due to diabetes, and rates that are no better than average for in-hospital deaths from heart attack and stroke.”   Think Progress provides a couple of neat graphs to more vividly illustrate the differences between the U.S. and other industrialized countries on a couple of variables.

?FED-ED, a federal program, provides unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.  Funds are made available in states with high unemployment rates.  CA’s improved economic situation has resulted in an unemployment rate lower than FED-ED’s guidelines.  As a result, 93,000 Californians will no longer receive FED-ED benefits beginning next week.

?The 23 year-old student from UC-San Diego who was kept by the DEA in a holding cell for five days with no food nor water has filed suit, asking for $20m.  Sen. Barbara Boxer urged Eric Holder of the DOJ to conduct “a full and thorough investigation to find out what happened, who was responsible and what steps must be taken to make sure it never happens again.”  More here.

?HSBC  is the world’s 5th largest bank with “$2.6 trillion in assets . . . and operations in 85 countries and territories.”  It’s also in deep doo-doo.  Since 2005, HSBC has “violated the Bank Secrecy Act and other anti-money laundering laws on a massive scale.”  Right now HSBC is under intense scrutiny by “The Justice Department, the Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Manhattan district attorney, the Office of Foreign Assets Control and the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations [which are concentrated on] client activities such as cross-border movements of bulk cash, and transactions linked to Iran and other parties under U.S. economic sanctions . . ..”    Much more here.

?Here’s one for those of you who scoff at the lowly penny:  “Canadian Mint’s last penny produced tomorrow”

?Maybe I’m not reading this correctly, or the story is missing something.  The USDA “announced Wednesday a new tracing method it hopes will protect consumers from eating contaminated meat and poultry.”  Specifically, “if food safety inspectors find E. coli during routine sampling, they will now move quickly to identify the supplier and target removing the tainted product from store shelves.”  Are they doing routine sampling now and but doing nothing until there is an outbreak?

?Pink slime, glued meat, contaminated food–so what does the OMB do?  “Food-safety rules in limbo at Office of Management and Budget”.  Why?  “OMB officials say the duration of this review [they’re undertaking prior to doing anything] is not unusual given the complexity of the regulations”.  Others, such as the president of the Center for Progressive Reform, say differently “. .  . one explanation could be that proposals have run into private objections from a company or other party that would be affected by them . . ..”  Well, I’ll be gob-smacked!

?Creeping austerity in the US over the recent past has resulted in fewer government funds for research in our universities.  Instead, “Hundreds of millions of dollars are now flowing from corporate agribusinesses into the land-grant university to sponsor buildings, endow professorships and pay for research. . . .  Corporate money shifts the public research agenda toward the ambitions of the private sector . . ..”

?Whatever happened to the Ivory Tower?  Moody’s Investor Service has now “applauded a new University of California, Berkeley proposal to give each UC campus more autonomy, particularly when it comes to setting tuition”.  While UC Regents may not be so ready to approve, and student groups certainly are not, Moody’s is almost doing cart-wheels over the proposal which “would be a credit positive for UC because the system’s leading campuses could better utilize their market potential to generate new student revenues and offset continuing reductions in state support”.

?Good on Pelosi!

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