CommunityThe Bullpen

The Roundup for September 24, 2012

Good evening all!

International Developments

? “An Egyptian court has upheld death sentences for 14 Islamist militants over attacks on the army and police in the Sinai Peninsula last year.”

? “The Marine Corps says it will court-martial two non-commissioned officers for allegedly urinating on the bodies of Taliban fighters last year in Afghanistan and posing for unofficial photos with casualties.”

? In response to Iran’s Press TV story over the weekend that Siemens had put explosives in equipment it had produced for Iran, Siemens has responded: “Siemens maintains no business deaings in connection to the Iranian nuclear programme and delivers no equipment to this end.”

International Finance

Austerity is affecting people in Germany now–specifically, “low-wage workers and the old-age pensioners” as the gap between rich and poor widens. The top 10%, who owned 45% of Germany’s wealth in 1998, now own 53%. German labor unions argue that “the absence of a legal minimum wage and the strong expansion of the low-paid job sector . . . come at the expense of society’s poorest . . ..”

? “Germany’s Roman Catholics are to be denied the right to Holy Communion or religious burial if they stop paying a special church tax.” That tax, btw, is “an extra 8% of their income tax bill”.

? “IMF hints at more time for Greece to implement hardline austerity.” Managing director Christine Lagarde says IMF ‘prepared to be flexible’–saying both growth and austerity are necessary . . . to put an end to a crisis which will next month again force the IMF to cut its global growth forecasts.” When you’re in a hole . . .

? Interesting graph showing the percentages of employment loss following major financial crises (in the US (both 1929 and 2007), Norway, Finland, Sweden, Spain and Japan), and the typically fluctuating nature of job recovery over time.

Money Matters USA

? Is “QE3 Another Fed Give Away to the Banks“? Michael Hudson thinks so, and spells out why.

? From the Wall Street Journal, no less: “Most Economists Say Government Should Avoid Spending Cuts in 2013”, according to results from a National Association of Business Economics survey.

? Bank of America plans to cut 16,000 jobs by year’s end, and to close 200 branches.

? Corporations have been claiming that the 725% increase in CEO pay over the past 3 decades–“while worker pay has essentially remained flat”–is necessary to retain all that “top talent”. Not so: less than 2% of CEOs left one company for another between 1993-2005.

Politics USA

? Mitt Romney has abandoned bragging about RomneyCare and instead is repeating the old GWBush line about poor people getting all kinds of free care in hospital emergency rooms. Paul Ryan has abandoned describing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid using the Ayn Rand term ‘collectivist’ and said on the teevee that “her philosophy . . . is something I just don’t agree with.”

? Mitt has also rejected Paul Ryan’s budget, saying the $716 billion in Ryan’s proposed Medicare cuts will be put “back into the Medicare and I’m the guy running for president, not him.”

? Ta-Nehisi Coates: It’s “critically important that we not think of these new [voter suppression] laws as anything particularly ‘new’. They are but restatements of our oldest pathologies. A deep-seated fear of bestowing full American citizenship on non-whites, and particularly on blacks”.

? Last year, the DOJ blocked South Carolina’s voter ID law and today closing arguments in the case are being made. 5 forms of voter ID are covered in the law, but does that requirement discriminate against African-Americans? This complex case is likely headed to the US Supreme Court.

? Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) is no longer a target of the National Republican Congressional Committee. They’re taking their resources elsewhere.

? Turnabout’s a bitch. FL Republican Gov Rick Scott has rejected billions of federal funds ($2.4 billion for high-speed rail; $31 million for child abuse and infant mortality prevention, $40 million to move children from nursing homes back to their families). After Hurricane Isaac resulted in some flooding in FL, Scott requested $26.9 million in FEMA aid. Request denied.

? Hillary Clinton, speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative, pointed out that rich people all over the globe are making money “and yet they do not contribute to the growth of their own countries.” Countries that don’t wish to continue being aid recipients must raise taxes on the wealthiest and fight corruption.

? Mike Horner of Kissimmee, FL started out as a “‘true liberal’ Democrat” a couple of decades ago, switched to being a Republican and won election to the state House, was up for re-election this year, but has now resigned after his name popped up on a list of clients for a brothel.

? New news blog site that might interest you: Quartz.

? Case history of a couple who tried getting a modification on their mortgage after one of them lost his job. Unable to get a satisfactory solution, the couple began airing their problems with Bank of America–so much so that the bank did offer them a modification. Hitch: Bank of America also “wants them to sign a gag order” about the deal.

? Democratic Senators Robert Menendez (NJ) and Barbara Boxer (CA) plan to bring a mortgage refinancing bill up for a Senate vote after the November elections.

? “Two senior officials who were criticized for their roles in the “Fast and Furious” gun-running operation by the Justice Department’s inspector general will not be disciplined because the department disagrees with the criticism, according to a Justice official.”

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

? “It’s far cheaper to give a homeless person a place to live than to provide a patchwork of emergency services.” Current price tag–$4.5 billion/year for shelters, “emergency health care, mental-health services, law enforcement . . . and food banks.” Instead, “providing [collaborative, coordinated] support and housing to chronically homeless people can save taxpayers 54 cents on the dollar”.

? A new Sars-like virus has been identified in two individuals, one from Saudi Arabia and the other from Qatar.

Working for A Living

? There was a huge brawl at China’s Foxconn, which makes Apple products. The fight broke out in a workers’ dormitory with some 2000 people joining in. “Foxconn has previously been accused of having poor conditions for its workers”. One blogger reported the fight erupted after a guard beat a worker.

? Matt Iglesias summed up the Foxconn worker brawl story as follows: “An Example of Labor Unrest Roiling Beneath the Surface in China”, comparing it to the “heyday of western labor activism”. Corey Robin points out that “labor productivity in the US has risen 80.4%” since 1973, yet median wages and compensation by only 10.7%. Since worker activism in the US “also gets repressed”, workers’ increased productivity doesn’t get translated “into higher pay and benefits for workers.”

? As the world heats up, labor productivity can be expected to go down.

Latin America

? 35 police officers in San Luis Potosi and Veracruz were arrested by the Mexican armed forces for “having links with one of the country’s most powerful drug cartels, the Zetas.” Meanwhile, the Mexican Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity is in New York “to denounce US government complicity in the violence both by exporting weapons and also a model of militarization that targets all sectors of society.”

Break Time

? Five episodes you’ll want to enjoy. My fave was the g.o.b. tampon.

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