CommunityThe Bullpen

The Roundup for May 23, 2012

Winnemem Wintu Dancers (photo: marmarou/flickr)

It’s Wednesday already? Hope you’re looking forward to a great weekend.

?CalSTRS (California Teachers Retirement System) “plans to vote all of its [5.3 million] Wal-Mart Stores Inc shares against the entire board” over Wal-Mart’s failure to investigate those bribery claims in Mexico.

?Ooops. NJ’s revenues are expected to be $1.3 billion short of what Republican Gov Christie projected, according to the NJ Office of Legislative Services.

?Maryland’s Democratic Gov Martin O’Malley yesterday “signed into law a package of tax increases . . . targeting six-figure earners, tobacco users and companies engaged in real estate transactions” all of which is to benefit spending on education in the state. Other bills were aimed “to stimulate the economy, protect the environment and help family farms” and other progressive measures.

?Former Michigan Gov Jennifer Granholm (D) minced no words: Republican “voter suppression efforts across the country could be considered as ‘treasonous’ acts.”

?200 People turned out in downtown Pittsburgh this morning to protest cuts in spending for education by Gov. Tom Corbett (or “Gov. Corporate” according to one of the demonstrators). Eleven people were arrested for obstructing traffic (sit-down).

?PA State Rep Daryl Metcalfe (R, of course) is calling for a complete ban on use of state funds for Planned Parenthood.

?”Neil Barofsky, who helped oversee $700B financial industry bailout, has book deal for memoir.” Barofsky was Special Inspector General of TARP from 2008-2011 and his memoir, Bailout, “will recount his many clashes with the Treasury Department and others in government.” Barofsky will be on DDay’s Netroots nation panel in two weeks.

?Prepaid cards are becoming very popular, but there are concerns. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray has noted that the cards have “fewer regulatory protections than bank accounts and debit adds.” Therefore, the CFPB will address “disclosure of fees and terms, liability for unauthorized transactions and niche product features.”

?Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Dr. Richard J. Gilfillian, Director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, said that the new health care “is already transforming the way care is delivered, and the changes will continue regardless of how the Supreme Court” rules in the case now before them. Sen. Whitehouse emphasized “The delivery system reforms will survive . . ..”

?Most of those lawsuits filed in the last couple of days by the Catholic Church and others against availability of contraceptives in the new health law refer to The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). RFRA was introduced by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and the late Edward Kennedy (D-MA) in response to American Indians’ concern that their religious use of peyote would be banned under an earlier decision of the Supreme Court. The upshot: the government will now be forced “to prove that federal regulators did not have another way to expand women’s access to birth control that would be less burdensome on religion . . ..” Oh, ye gods and goddesses!

?A refreshing new look at recent Wisconsin polls shows that the race between Scott Walker and Tom Barrett is actually a “dead heat”–and that Walker can’t get above 50 percent! Analysis of polls also suggest that Democrats’ failure to push labor issues “has done them serious harms with voters in their potential base.”

?A TX Democrat going over a primary challenger in a border district over, among other things, pro-legalization? It’s happening, all right, in the contest between Beto O’Rourke and 16-year incumbent Silvestre Reyes. Currently, the race is deadlocked.

?Julius Genachowski, Chair of the Federal Communications Commission, says he “supports charging for Internet based on how much a subscriber uses the service . . . [since that] would help drive efficiency in the networks”. Genachowski has an interesting cv, a classmate of Barack Obama at Harvard, staff to the Iran-Contra Select Committee and to Sen. Chuck Schumer, involved in the creation of Fox Broadcasting Company, among other accomplishments.

?There is an FBI unit at Quantica, VA, that also contains US Marshals and DEA agents. It’s purpose? To “invent technology that will let police more readily eavesdrop on Internet and wireless communications”. It’s called Domestic Communications Assistance Center (DCAC) and is part of that “Going Dark” program we learned about not too long ago and that the Senate allocated $54 million to support.

?The “Harper government is moving forward on several initiatives that could give U.S. FBI and DEA agents the ability to pursue suspects across the land border and into Canada.” A spokesperson for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police clarified that this is being done in “baby steps” since concerns about a few things such as sovereignty, privacy and civil liberties are involved.

?Tens of thousands took to the streets in Montreal to express their outrage “at a provincial law aimed at containing the very sort of march they staged.” The march also was in commemoration of the 100th day of the student strike against proposed tuition hikes.

?Alexis Tsipras, presumed winner in next month’s Greek elections, said during a visit to Germany that he wants to save the euro, which some have found “shocking”. Here, however, is the entire quote: “I have repeated many times that the elections on June 17 do not mean that we will be leaving the Eurozone . . . it means a great chance to save the Euro. Continuing the policy of austerity and lending memorandums are a big problem. If the memorandum continues like this, Greece will need a third bailout package within a few months.”

?Seems the people of Europe are being heard. Nick Clegg, UK Deputy Prime Minister, is now saying that “the coalition has plans for a ‘massive increase in state-backed infrastructure investment but denied that the fresh emphasis on growth represented a ‘plan B’.” He seemed to strongly support keeping Greece on the euro, too.

?”Only North American middle class to grow in last 30 years was Mexico’s”

?A new stimulus package is being prepared by Brazil, with a wary eye on Greece and the Eurozone. The government will temporarily reduce taxes on “some car sales as well as easing . . . terms for customers seeking car loans” and they will cut interest rates “for industries buying capital goods . . . to re-equip and update Brazil’s manufacturing base.”

?A major corruption scandal investigation begun in Brazil involves “local and national policymakers, police officers and business leaders”. At the center of the scandal is Carlos Augusto Ramos (nicknamed Charlie Waterfall). President Dilma Rousseff’s government “hailed the launch” of the investigation by a special committee authorized by Congress.

?Former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe (a law-and-order, hard-liner type of guy) was to deliver a speech in Buenos Aires yesterday. He wasn’t able to do that since a bomb was found hidden in a lamp in the theater where he was to speak.

?FIve Egyptian police officers have been convicted of murdering protestors during the February 2011 uprising. They were sentenced to 10 years in prison. They didn’t attend their trial nor the sentencing, though, so will probably appeal.

?”A Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA find Osama Bin Laden has been jailed for at least 30 years”. Dr. Shakil Afridi was operating a sham vaccination program through which he obtained information that he funneled to the US. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had called for his release, to no avail.

?Dominique Strauss-Kahn is now accused of “gender violence” in addition to rape of hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo as part of her civil suit against him.

?A judge with the US District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin has ordered Sheboygan’s Piggly Wiggly “to restore full-time status and health insurance to employees whose hours were reduced to part-time without bargaining with their union, and to refrain from making such unilateral changes in the future.”

?Patrick Fitzgerald, US Attorney for the Northern Distrit if Illinois, who investigated the leak of Valerie Plame and prosecuted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, announced his retirement today, effective June 30. Best summary from Emptywheel.

?Neat article chronicling how Republicans in the House and Senate are doing all they can to force the US military to continue reliance on fossil fuels, while the military is fully aware that it needs to be reducing energy consumption and developing alternative energy for its air and marine fleets.

?”Maine’s four First Wind industrial wind sites generated about 27 to 37 percent of their capacity in 2011″, within standards for projects their size. First Wind estimates the sites “helped prevent the creation or burning of close to a million tons of pollutants and oil last year”. Entrenched critics of the project disagree with the degree of success claimed.

?Is he savvy or what? Romney said today that his economic policies will “reduce unemployment to 6 percent by the end of his first term in 2016”. A 6% unemploymen rate “is exactly where multiple government agency project” it will be by the end of 2016.

?Not to be overlooked in all the “birther” activities, IA’s GOP has included this stipulation in its platform: “We insist that a candidate proves that he or she meets all the requirements for that office prior to being placed in nomination, including proof of United States citizenship.” Didn’t specify how that proof is to be determined nor by whom; so it must be in the pudding.

?Demand for new vehicles in the US is so great that auto factories and workers are being pushed “to the limit” to try and meet the need. “Some plants are adding third work shifts. Others are piling on workers overtime and six-day weeks” and so on.

?How low will they go? “A U.S. Treasury auction of five-year notes drew a record low yield of 0.748 percent.”

?The Winnemem Wintu Tribe requested to hold a coming-of-age ceremony for young females on a section of Lake Shasta over Memorial Day. The US Forest Service refused the request. So now the tribe intends to hold a war dance at one of the camping areas in protest.

?”Barefoot economics” and the US as an “underdeveloping nation”. Fascinating discussion with Manfred Max-Neef, Chilean economist who has spent years living with the very poor, so knows first-hand about that which he speaks.

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