CommunityThe Bullpen

The Roundup for September 17, 2012

Here’s some news to wrap up your Monday.

International Developments

? Anti-US protests turned violent in Karachi, Pakistan on Sunday, with 1 person dead. Marawi, Philippines site of “angry rally”. “Weapons . . . fired and police cars torched in . . . Kabul.” Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader says “the US faces ‘very dangerous’ repercussions” if the full video “Innocence of Muslims” is released. Youtube has complied with laws in India, Indonesia, Libya and Egypt, and “restricted access to the clip”. Protests in Jakarta, Indonesia; Ramallah, Palestine; Baku, Azerbaijan”.

? “Classified holdings” at the US Lebanon embassy are being destroyed ahead of an announced anti-American protest.

? “Iran says saboteurs cut power to nuclear site: It was also disclosed that power to an Iranian enrichment site was also cut off on an unknown date.”

? Executions are part of Iran’s war on drugs. “Human rights organisations estimate that as many as 600 people were put to death in Iran last year, of which at least 488 executions were carried out for alleged drug offences.” Iran has reported a “41% increase in arresting narcotics traffickers and distributors”.

? Burma has announced it will free perhaps as many as 500 political prisoners.

International Finance

? George Soros reviews and prescribes for “The Tragedy of the European Union and How to Resolve It”. “The difficulty is in convincing Germany that its current policies are leading to a prolonged depression, political and social conflicts, and an eventual breakup not only of the euro but also of the European Union.” Since so much rests on Germany, which seems unable to effectively lead, “European civil society, the business community, and the general public need to mobilize and become engaged.”

? Larry Summers weighs in on “Britain Risks A Lost Decade Unless It Changes Course”. In both the US and UK “austerity policies that slowed growth could even backfire . . . turning debt unsustainability into a self-fulfilling prophecy.” First priority, though is “for the public sector to stop exacerbating the contraction.”

? Handelsblatt, business newspaper in Germany, is reporting that “Greece’s international creditors no longer believe Athens can achieve its financial objectives, especially a reduction in its debt burden.”

Money Matters USA

? A new study by the Congressional Research Service concludes what’s been obvious to many for a while: “. . the [65-year] reduction in the top tax rates have had little association with savings, investment or productivity growth. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution.”

? “The Treasury Department is resisting General Motors‘ push for the government to sell off its stake in the auto maker . . ..” US taxpayers “own almost 27% of the company” and GM doesn’t like that. If Treasury went along with GM’s wishes at the moment, the result would be “a multibillion dollar loss for the government . . ..”

? Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are now under the FHFA (Federal Housing Finance Agency), whose Office of the Inspector General, answerable only to Congress, has the mission to “root out fraud, waste and abuse” within the FHFA. They are going to do that by going after “strategic” mortgage defaulters who deliberately walked away rather than pay for a house that was worth substantially less than . . . owed”.

? Emptywheel provides more insight into yesterday’s report about a new investigation of JPMorgan’s money laundering. Headed by the Office of Comptroller and Currency, this effort is aimed at the future and not the past (sound familiar?). Ergo, “But it will be years–if ever–before they ever pay a price for being an accessory to all this crime.”

? JPMorgan experienced a significant set-back Friday when a US District Court Judge in Brooklyn issued “an order dramatically expanding the claims . . . against JPMorgan [by] the Mississippi Public Employees’ Retirement System . . . [which] has standing to sue.”

? Remember HCA, the hospital chain connected to the Frist family (surely you remember Bill)? A federal lawsuit by HCA in Boston alleges Bain, Goldman Sachs and the Blackstone Group “engaged in a conspiracy to lower sales prices [by as much as $1.6 billion] in leveraged buyouts” between 2003-07. Other big players involved include Carlyle, Merrill Lynch, KKR, etc. A complicated mess.

? One hand giveth . . . Under the National Mortgage Settlement, some homeowners “may quality for significant reductions in their mortgage principal and interest rates.” The other taketh away . . .”anyone who might receive a principal reduction from the mortgage settlement could face a hefty tax bill.” Congress is working on it, which doesn’t necessarily entail an improvement.

Politics USA

? Western New England College released the results of their latest poll: Elizabeth Warren (D) ahead of Scott Brown (R) by 6 points “among likely voters” in the Senate race in MA.

? “Latina voters prefer Obama by 53 point margin”, compared to 29% among Latino men.

? Lulli Akin, wife of Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin, compares the treatment the Republican Party has accorded her husband as “like rape itself.” “Akin, Alone” follows Todd and Lulli as they campaign on, abandoned by the Republican Party, but clinging to their religious beliefs.

? “How Paul Ryan Convinced Washington of His Genius”, a story of eagerness, ingratiation, and gullibility inside the Washington DC bubble.

? Jeffrey Toobin’s “New Book Details John Roberts’ Health Care Switch”, including tidbits such as Justice Antonin Scalia’s reaction, rare leaking of info to the press, etc., and how Roberts tried to find some “middle ground”.

? PA’s Dept of State has walked back one more item from its new onerous requirements for voter ID. Rather than having those without birth certificates go to PennDOT (Dept of Transportation) twice–with a 10-day interval in-between the two visits–folks’ll now have to make only one visit.

? Meanwhile, there may be a PA Senate vote next week that would “allow county and local governments to sell . . . local parks for easy cash.”

? “Pamela Geller’s Blog Solicited Funds for anti-Muhammad Film”.

? Since Cook County Judge Peter Flynn declined to immediately take up Rahm’s lawsuit, it seems there will probably be no school tomorrow.

? Chicago public schools have been “reformed” beginning in 1995 under Mayor Richard Daley’s appointees Paul Vallas and Arne Duncan (now the US Education Secretary) who championed “more school closings, more privately managed schools, more testing, merit pay, longer schools hours”, etc. The result? “After nearly 20 years of reform, the schools of Chicago remain among the lowest performing in the nation.”

? “How a ballot initiative, a visionary mayor, and a quest for growth are turning Los Angeles into America’s next great mass-transit city.” Voila: “L.A.’s Transit Revolution.”

Heads Up!

? More than a hundred people were arrested as Occupy Wall Street anniversary began this am.

? “Occupy Wall Street One Year Later: Ten Key Charts About Inequality” Good graphs to put to good use.

Planet Earth News

? Latest prediction: Arctic sea ice will be gone within 4 years.

? “Campaigners ‘Vindicated’ As Shell Halts Arctic Drilling: A series of safety failure, ice floes, and public pressure has put an end to this year’s drilling.”

? At an environmental conference in Paris over the weekend, politicians announced that France will continue to ban GMOs “and will ban fracking”.

? Wow. “Scientists in Japan have created a microscopically thin film that can coat individual teeth to prevent decay or to make them appear whiter . . ..”

Latin America

? “Women’s Rights Groups Present Proposals to Chavez for Government Plan” for 2013-19.

? Hackers hit governmental, political and media websites on Mexican Independence Day. “Hacked pages were replaced with a message denouncing the recent presidential election as fraudulent” and other complaints about “corruption, drug-related violence and the economy”.

Break Time

? “The Campaigner

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