CommunityThe Bullpen

The Roundup for September 3, 2012

Good evening, all!

International Developments

? After the bizarre and short-lived episode of dusting off an apartheid-era law to charge 270 miners for the murder of 34 of their co-workers, whom the police shot, the murder charges have been withdrawn and “South African courts are to begin releasing” the miners.

? We saw it earlier in Tahrir Square: “Campaigners in Egypt say the problem of sexual harassment is reaching epidemic proportions, with a rise in such incidents over the past three months. For many Egyptian women, sexual harassment–which sometimes turns into violent mob-style attacks–is a daily fact of life. . ..”

? “Violence is continuing in Syria, with opposition activists saying that a warplane may have killed as many as 25 people in a strike in Aleppo province.”

? “Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has nominated a cabinet minister to head the country’s spy agency who has been accused of involvement in torture, drug-trafficking and corruption.”

? A US consulate vehicle was the target of a suicide-bomb attack in Pakistan. Four people were killed in the attack. “Pakistani security forces are being credited with saving the lives of two American diplomats and two Pakistani U.S. consular staff members” who were targets.

? “The new UN-Arab League envoy on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, has given a deeply pessimistic view of the task ahead of him, as he takes up his new post.” He has described his task as “nearly impossible.”

? Kurds and Turks battled it out in southeast Turkey on Monday, with 30 dead as a result (10 Turkish soldiers). This is part of a “large-scale military offensive against the PKK on July 23 that [the government] said early last month had killed a total of 115 Kurish rebels.”

International Finance

? George Osborne “is Britain’s answer to Paul Ryan.” He demanded austerity for Britain when the economy was depressed, and, shortly after his policies were implemented, it went into double-dip recession. Paul Krugman concludes his review of Osborne’s impact: Britain is in a slump which has “lasted longer than the slump in the 1930s”.

? Prime Minister David Cameron, a strong backer of George Osborne, is being urged to “impose spending and tax cuts faster” by David Davis, former member of the Tory shadow cabinet. What could possibly go wrong?

? US firms are preparing for Greece to default on its debt. “Bank of America Merrill Lynch has looked into filling trucks with cash and sending them over the Greek border . . .. Ford had configured its computer systems so they will be able to immediately handle a new Greek currency. . . .” And it’s not just Greece; they are preparing for “a single-country exit, a multicountry exit and a breakup of the euro zone in its entirety.”

Money Matters USA

? “Between 1987 and 2007, states’ spending on corrections grew 127% while spending on higher education grew by 21%. Why? Prohibition, racism, over-reliance on incarceration and the prison-industrial complex, shifting more of the cost of higher education onto students and their families, and the Wall Street crash which “crushed state budgets”.

? Some good news: “Overall state tax revenues are now above pre-recession levels. . . . [with] nine consecutive periods of growth” with more expected. However, ” local tax revenues . . .[are] mostly heading downward.” That’s because of property taxes, which are dependent on housing prices.

? Apple is forging ahead, pushing “for Samsung Galaxy S3, Note and tab 10.1 tablet ban in US: iPhone maker adds phones to a case running parallel to patent infringement case”.

Politics USA

? A CNN documentary, “Romney Revealed” apparently “glossed over the fact that Romney . . .[had] four deferments during the Vietnam War” and that he “protested in favor of the draft that he so skillfully avoided”. Well, he was one short of five-deferments-Dick.

? Romney’s super-duper IRA remains a bit of a mystery, “But interviews with Bain executives and accounting professionals show that he was able to take advantage of tax benefits in innovative ways open only to a narrow slice of extremely affluent people–mostly those who work in private-equity firms and other investment partnerships.”

? MD Democratic Gov Martin O’Malley, who responded ‘no’ when asked on the teevee yesterday if the US was better off than 4 years go, now says “We are clearly better off as a country because we’re creating jobs rather than losing them.”

? “Vice President Biden on Sunday said Mitt Romney was ready to “go to war in Syria and Iran.”

? Somebody stole the U-Haul the Secret Service was using to transport equipment for Vice-President Joe BIden’s appearance in Detroit tonight.

? Informative article about San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro who will be the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention. Grew up poor, single-parent, but very supportive, family, worked hard and is now mayor of a city with a great progressive reputation.

The War on Women

? KS Republican Representative Peter DeGraaf continues the stunning tradition of Republican ignorance about women and rape. According to him, rape is like getting a flat tire and women should somehow plan ahead for rape just as he does for the possibility of his car getting a flat tire.

Working for A Living

? Today is the fourth anniversary of the closure of Vise-Grip in DeWitt, NE, where it had been for generations, and its subsequent relocation to Shenzhen, China. This article explores the impact of moving Vise-Grip to China on both the DeWitt and Shenzhen workers involved.

? WI has one quarter-million fewer jobs than needed. There is a “serious lack of demand for workers” in the state and wages “are a serious problem”–the median wage in 2011 ($16.84) was $1 higher than in 1979 (adjusting for inflation) and median family income fell from $84,500 in 2000 to $76,000 in 2010.

? A major study “presents a harrowing picture of [NJ’s] working poor. 1.1 million, “more than a third of all households . . . are unable to provide the basic necessities”, 30% of households and 1/3 of seniors are below cost-of-living thresholds, and so on.

? ” you can expect much to be said [by Obama in his acceptance speech] about what he will do for the middle class, much more to be said about the obligation of the upper class. You can expect silence about the needs of the underclass.” Go along with Leonard Pitts, Jr., to a homeless shelter and community agencies serving the poor in Charlotte, NC. The poor are not mentioned much any more by either party, even though 46 million Americans live in poverty.

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

? Henry Wolfson, a highly-regarded substitute teacher for 26 years in Skokie, IL, lives in a homeless shelter. He was making ends meet until his medical insurance ran up to $15,000 a year and he simply ran out of money trying to keep it.

? Veep Biden said today in Detroit “We’re for Medicare, they’re for ‘vouchercare’.” House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi attacked Paul Ryan’s Medicare voucher plan, too, saying “To vote for Medicare, vote Democratic.” Is Obama listening?

? Seems we’re at the end of “cheap food“. Too many people, too much emphasis on animal protein, and predicted droughts from here on out due to climate change. In the short term and at a minimum, diverting food into gas tanks (biofuel) must stop.

Heads Up!

? Charlotte, NC has a new ordinance which bans “‘handbags, backpacks, soda cans, drink coolers, scarves, bike helmets, baby strollers, and non-service animals’ . . . ‘water bottles, hair spray, socks, or magic markers'” near the Democratic National Convention site. You can, however, walk around toting a handgun or a rifle, but you can’t conceal them unless you have a permit.

Latin America

? Although Venezuelan officials investigatng a reported mass killing of Yanomami indigenous people near the border with Brazil have come up empty-handed, there is concern that the remoteness of some of the Yanomami settlements may have stymied the investigators.

? During his final annual report as president, Felipe Calderon of Mexico “blamed loose US gun laws and American addicts for fueling his country’s drug violence as he defended his controversial anti-cartel offensive . . ..”

? Mexicans, major consumers of eggs, have an egg shortage due to an avian flu virus outbreak. President Calderon has sworn to keep speculators at bay, tariffs on egg imports have been suspended, and US hens have joined in, sending tons of eggs south of the border.

Break Time

? Oh, the union!

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