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The Roundup for July 31, 2012

Good evening all, and farewell to July. Here’s your news.

International Finances

? Oh nooos. BP had a “plunging” net loss of $1.39 billion in the 2nd quarter, and almost $5.0 billion write-downs on assets values. Revenue was down 8.0% to $94.8 billion, total production by 7.4% (to 2.28 million barrels/day), and adjusted earnings were down 35%.

Money Matters USA

? “Business Activity In U.S. Unexpectedly Grows At Faster Pace”, with manufacturing showing “modest improvement”. However, . . .

? In July, Americans spent less than they have since August 2011. “Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of the nation’s economic activity,” so this raises red flags all around.

? “Fed expected to hold fire despite weak U.S. Growth“. If anybody thinks they might actually do anything, they won’t, you see, because they are “waiting until the economic picture becomes clearer”–never mind that it’s pretty darned obvious to millions upon millions of the rest of us.

? Incomes for the US top 1% and 0.1% have doubled and tripled, respectively, between 1980-2010. Incomes for the rest of us fell by 4.8%. Those are income figures which should relate to how much people have, but they don’t, according to Federal Reserve figures. So, where’s the missing dough? In tax havens, about $10 trillion owned by the US super-wealthy.

Politics USA

? “In 2004, 9 votes per precinct pushed George W. Bush ahead of John Kerry in Ohio. But thousands [of votes] are thrown out each election . . ..” Why? “[B]ureaucratic confusion, clerical error”, votes “cast in the wrong precinct”, provisional ballots problems, etc.

? Hark! A rare example of voter fraud found: AZ Republican John Enright, running for county supervisor in Pinal County has dropped out of the race “amid questions about who cast ballots on behalf of his long-deceased girlfriend.”

? A “Scathing GOP report on ‘Fast and Furious’ blames five ATF officials”. The report was prepared by staff from CA Republican House member, Darrell Issa, Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and IA Sen Chuck Grassley of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Five ATF employees are named and blamed. Two more reports are due.

? Republican House Speaker John Boehner demanded that each dollar borrowed under the federal budget be matched by a dollar cut. What eventually resulted was the “sequester” and defense cuts which they now are pretending they didn’t agree to. Obama, meanwhile, is reminding the country that they did.

? NE Democrat (in name anyway) Bob Kerrey “has rolled out a rescue plan for Social Security that he says will thrill no one”. His plan would gradually increase the full benefits age to 69, and slow the cost-of-living adjustments. He wants to raise the maximum income limit subject to the payroll tax, though he didn’t specify to what extent. Well, Simpson-Bowles groupies will like it.

? Keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention will be San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro. Mayor Castro “has worked tirelessly to move San Antonio forward by building its economy from the middle out, not the top down . . ..”

? My word. Rick Gorka, Romney’s press secretary, had this to say to reporters asking questions about The Candidate near Poland’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier: “Kiss my ass, this is a holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect. . . shove it.”

? FL Republican Gov Rick Scott promised that his “and other non-exempt executive staff emails would be made available to the public in an online database.” Some emails have been made public, but they “were not the ones in Scott’s official state account [but were] from a different account used almost exclusively by conservative supporters.”

? “Same-Sex Marriage Unanimously Included in DNC Platform Draft”

? Dick “Dick” Cheney will not be attending the Republican convention this year. Instead, he’s going fishing. In Canada.

The War on Women

? In their on-going effort to out-do themselves, Republicans in Congress are now concocting a spending bill that would: bar Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal funds so long as it provides abortion services (even though no federal funds are involved in those services anyway); cancel Title X funding which covers family-planning services, breast and cervical cancer screenings and STD tests for poor women; stop implementation of “numerous advances for women’s health” in the Affordable Care Act”.

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

? “Accretive Health, one of the nation’s largest collectors of medical debt, has agreed to pay $2.5 million to the Minnesota state attorney general’s office to settle accusations that it violated a federal law requiring hospitals to provide emergency care, even if patients cannot afford to pay.” Go here to see some of the top muckety-mucks of Accretive.

? Sick and on Medicaid in Illinois? No more than four prescriptions for you from now on, as Illinois joins 16 other states in cutting Medicaid prescription drug benefits. Too bad if your ill-health conditions require more—this is the Age of Austerity.

? Not quite 10% of the cost of expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act will be borne by states, so why do states with the largest numbers of uninsured refuse to participate? 1) They have Republican governors who are “driven by political grandstanding about big government”; 2) “it is a social program aimed at the poor” and conservatives are “ideologically opposed”; 3) “a war on the poor is good politics these days in about half of America.”

Working for A Living

? Scranton, PA’s mayor cut all city employees’ wages to the state’s $7.25 minimum wage back in early July. Unions sued and now the mayor wants to compromise, claiming the “city was on track to implement a fiscal recovery plan” and would be able to obtain state aid and loans. He’s agreed to pay $750,000 in back pay, plus around $5,100 in interest.

Planet Earth News

? Republicans “made drastic cuts to the Food and Drug Administration in an attempt to prevent the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act . . . ]and] the House farm bill . . . contains an amendment proposed by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) that would prevent states from regulating agricultural products.” Not that the O-Team has been all that aggressive on food safety, but still, don’t Americans deserve healthful food?

? Cutting edge: Mitt Romney is all for letting the wind energy credit die this year.

? We’ve been hearing of a 4% rise in food prices because of the mid-West drought, and now there are appeals to the Obama administration “to stop diverting grain to gas . . . producing fuel from corn-based ethanol.”

Mixed Bag

? How US-born children, deported along with their parents, are adjusting to life in Mexico.

? If nothing in the news got your dander up today, you need to check out this hunk-a-hunk of burnin’ love. And if that doesn’t do it, this definitely will.

Break Time

? What we need are more guns–say what?

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