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The Roundup for August 15, 2012

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It is so hot today my arms are sticking to the computer. So, here’s some hot news for you.

International Developments

? Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar have “urged their citizens to leave Lebanon amid signs that the conflict in Syria is spilling over into its western neighbor.”

? “‘Thirty dead’ in Syria air strike” on Azaz.

International Finance

? “Greece is seeking a two-year extension of is latest austerity programme aimed at improving the country’s debt sustainability and prospects for a return to growth . . ..” The Greek economy contracted by 6.2% in the second quarter, and “German politicians are now openly contemplating the country’s exit from the eurozone.”

? Austerity: who benefits? “Greece has always had one of the lowest suicide rates in Europe, but its economic crisis has triggered a disturbing increase in the number of people killing themselves.”

Money Matters USA

? Seems JPMorgan, Barclays, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Deutsche Bank, Citigroup and UBS “have been subpoenaed in the Libor scandal.”

? Democratic House Representatives Elijah Cummings (MD) and Henry Waxman (CA) have obtained internal documents they say “may point to evidence of tax evasion and money laundering” in connection with the bribery at Wal-Mart’s Mexico operation.

? Shades of Michael Milken, Enron and the mortgage scandal! SPEs, ‘special purpose entities’ are “an esoteric accounting mechanism”, created by business firms but legally separated from them. SPEs can hold assets and owe debt, though they don’t actually do any business; instead, SPEs are used to remove “assets and liabilities from the parent company’s balance sheet.”

? The US government’s auto bailout of 2007-08 cost about $25 billion, higher than earlier estimates, because Treasury “continues to prop up GM’s former financing arm, . . . Ally Financial, which lost $898 million in the second quarter mainly due to the bankruptcy of its home mortgage arm . . ..”

? “The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder confidence index rose to 37, higher than projected and the best showing since February 2007 . . ..”

Politics USA

? NJ Republican Gov Chris Christie took office in 2010 “when the state unemployed rate was 35th in the nation; it is now 48th. The NJ economy shrank by 0.5% during his tenure, too.

? Mark Thompson, who was director general of the BBC will be the chief executive of the New York Times come November.

? According to an article in the National Catholic Reporter, President Obama is more pro-life than Mitt Romney.

Working for A Living

? That MI ballot initiative in support of collective bargaining, and to undo many anti-labor laws, was rejected by the Board of State Canvassers along a party-line vote. Next stop: Supreme Court.

? A federal judge “hearing AMR’s bankruptcy case . . . denied the American Airlines parent company’s option to throw out the Allied Pilots Association contract and impose new terms on the union.”

? Yay! Those striking workers at the Caterpillar plant in Joliet were visited by IL Democratic Gov Pat Quinn who gave them a check for $10,000 to help with their food drive.

? Bob Murray, owner of the Crandall Canon Mine where nine miners were killed in 2007 “due to flagrant safety violations, deregulation and tax oversight . . . under the Bush administration”, has shut down a mine in OH, blaming Obama’s so-called “War on Coal”.

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

? The director-general of the International Food Policy Research Institute Is warning about the food crisis we’re entering, urging the US to halt the biofuels program. Corn prices are up 57% since June 15, leading to a 6.2% increase in global food inflation in July. Apparently, the O-team is “Looking At Ethanol Rules.”

? In order to begin aerial spraying, the mayor of Dallas, TX, has declared an emergency due to the spread of the West Nile virus. 82 cases have been reported in Dallas County thus far,
65 of which are neuroinvasive.

? Profits at hospital giant HCA, owned in part by Bain Capital, soared recently, resulting from using billing codes tied to higher reimbursement. (They did get caught by one private insurance company and had to return some payments.) Article explores “interesting” tactics used to enhance profits made off illness.

? “Dark chocolate ‘may lower blood pressure'”

Heads Up!

? Turns out, the “Obama Administration Advised Police To Not Arrest Occupy Protestors,” according to documents received through their Freedom of Information Request.

? The 6th Circuit of the US Court of Appeals (Cincinnati, OH), has ruled that it’s ok for law enforcement to track cell phones without a warrant.

Planet Earth News

? “Are methane hydrates dissolving?” A scientific expedition is being undertaken west of Spitsbergen in Norway to answer that and related questions. WIth rising average temperatures in the ocean, it is possible that methane hydrates will dissolve and release dangerous levels of methane into the air.

? “Only 2% of Canadians deny climate change“!

? Scientists are now saying that, even if Arctic sea ice melting were to come to a complete stop today, they anticipate that by September Arctic sea ice will be the 4th lowest level on record.

? Mexico’s “government, environmental groups and private donors have spent millions of dollars to get residents of forest communities” to aid in protecting and expanding the Monarch butterfly reserves. This approach has been so successful they are thinking of using it in areas where illegal logging has led to armed conflict and murder.

? “One Step Closer to Game-Changing Electric Vehicle Batteries“.

? World’s Ten Most Livable Cities! You just might be surprised.

Latin America

? “Brazil announces $60bn stimulus package . . . the first phase of a major economic stimulus package designed to boost growth in the flagging economy.” Roads and railways, with ports and airports expected to be emphasized in the next round. Wow.

? Leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who lost Mexico’s presidential election to the PRI, “brought a pig, a sheep and chickens to a news conference on Tuesday.” He said the animals were part of PRI’s bribes to voters.

? A Brazilian court has ordered a halt to the work on the giant Belo Monte dam in the Amazon, “saying native communities affected by the controversial hydroelectric project must be heard.”

? $5million “was paid to a group of Argentine senators in exchange for their votes to remove workers protections” in 2000 so workers could be fired without cause or severance pay. Prosecutors are now trying to tie ex-President De la Rua directly to the bribe.

Break Time

? Thief of the Deep

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