CommunityThe Bullpen

The Roundup for October 1, 2012


International Developments

? General John Allen, Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan is “mad as hell” about the murders of US soldiers by their Afghan counterparts. “We’re willing to sacrifice,” he said, “but we’re not willing to be murdered.”

? African Union and Somali government troops have entered Kismayo and are beginning to set up patrols in the city. Al-Shabab forces withdrew from Kismayo on Saturday but remain “highly active” in the countryside.

? More violence in Madrid as protestors “clashed with riot police for the third time in less than a week near Parliament.” Tens of thousands in the streets in Portugal, too.

? Georgian Dream, a political alliance headed by business tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili (whose wealth is equivalent to about half the country’s GDP), has claimed victory over the incumbent, pro-Western party. No official results yet, though.

International Finance

? Cambridge Professor Ha-Joon Chang says the European Austerity agenda is “nothing short of a complete rewriting of the implicit social contracts that have existed since the end of the second world war” and this re-writing is being done “through the backdoor” and “threaten the very legitimacy of European democracies”.

? 18.2million were unemployed in the Eurozone in August, for a rate of 11.4%–from 4.5% in Austria to 25.1% in Spain. Among those under 25 years old, the rate was 22.8% overall–with 52.9% in Spain and only slightly less in Greece. Sage observation from the European Commission: there’s a “‘real social emergency crisis’ due to the fall in household income and growing household poverty.”

Money Matters USA

? What needs to happen to get the economy moving again? “A financial transaction tax on Wall Street”, no “special tax rate for capital gains”, a 3% annual “wealth tax on everyone with a net worth of $10 million or more”, then invest the resulting revenues in public-sector job creation since private industry is never going to generate all the jobs needed.

? “U.S. manufacturing grows in September for first time since May”–to the point they are describing as “not so bad”.

? The US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau joined with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the UT Dept of Financial Institutions in investigating American Express violations of “marketing, billing and debt collection practices” between 2003-2012. As a result, around 250,000 customers can expect to receive $85 million in reimbursement. This is the third such consent order with credit card companies over add-on fees.

Politics USA

? MD Democrat Congressman Elijah Cummings has announced an investigation into Nathan Sproul’s Strategic Allied Consulting business which has produced fraudulent voter registration applications. In addition, the NC Republican Party “has fired [Strategic Allied Consulting] . . . after fraudulent forms linked to the company were uncovered in Florida.”

? Former IN Democratic Senator Evan Bayh was on Fox news “to rail against a tax on medical devices” included in the American Health Care Act. Neither the network nor Bayh acknowledged he “is currently a partner at a law firm that represents several medical device companies.”

? “Janeane From Des Moines” is a “mockumentary” starring Jane Edith Wilson whose character spoke with Republican candidates during the primaries, asking about ObamaCare, Planned Parenthood and gay marriage. The film was directed by Grace Lee and has received varied critical reaction, including, “This film makes Michael Moore look subtle.”

? Stephen Barton, who survived the Aurora, CO mass shooting, urges voters to Demand A Plan for ending gun violence from the two presidential candidates.

? Omaha, NE, which borders IA, is an area where the Obama campaign is airing ads. “Three of Nebraska’s five electoral votes are awarded by congressional district, meaning that Mitt Romney could win the state but Obama could siphon off one vote.”

? Now that the NFL officiating matter is past, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson sees a Mitt Romney victory in the future, which is “more important to him than a successful NFL season”. He thinks Romney will win because of the debates plus “Our paid media are going to help.”

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

? October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month for Men. Info here--please check it out!

? Today, Medicare begins withholding 1% of hospital reimbursement which will be redistributed “based on how well hospitals adhere to clinical guidelines and score on patient-satisfaction surveys.” Medicare will also begin “penalizing hospitals with “high readmission rates among heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia patients”.

? Large nonprofit NC hospitals “are dramatically inflating prices on chemotherapy drugs at a time when they are cornering more of the market on cancer care”. Mark-ups on the drugs ranged from 2 to 10+ times the cost. Hospitals say the mark-ups are used to cover the costs of care for indigent and Medicaid patients.

The War on Women

? A Nebraska anti-abortion group tried appealing a federal court’s decision rejecting a law requiring “health screenings for women seeking abortions”. The US Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal.

? A Dutch ship which provides on-board abortions, has sailed to Morocco to provide the procedure for women “who are exposed to grave health risks if treated domestically”. An estimated 600-800 illegal abortions are performed in Morocco daily.

? “The Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) didn’t bother to do a background check on a priest who had been defrocked for molesting girls before they gave him a job, which included doing pat downs on children at Philadelphia International Airport.” He’s since been promoted; he “oversees operations for checked baggage.”

Working for A Living

? “Microsoft is offering to pay millions of dollars for the right to hire more foreigners, with the money going for educational training to eventually fill those jobs with Americans.” The company has 6,000 job openings–but not enough US skilled workers to fill them, since colleges and universities aren’t producing graduates in numbers needed by the industry.

? “The Minnesota Orchestra has locked out its musicians and canceled concerts through Nov. 25.” Their contract with union musicians has expired and, over the weekend, the musicians “unanimously rejected a proposal that would have cut salaries from a minimum of 30 percent to 50 percent.”

Heads Up!

? Quebec student protest leader, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois and a few others have “embarked on a Canada-wide tour to inspire Canadians to fight against austerity measures as well as Prime Minister Stephen Harper.”

? PCJF (Partnership for Civil Justice Fund) is “challenging the New York Police Department’s use of sidewalk arrests in which persons are targeted for false arrest based on their association with or proximity to dissent and protest”.

Planet Earth News

? Today, the US Supreme Court refused to hear challenges by “state, mining and oil industry” to the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which protects 58 million acres of national forest area from road-building and timber harvesting.

? Environment Texas has looked at the costs of fracking. “Truck traffic to bring water to a single fracking site does as much damage to roads as 3.5 million cars”, costing TX $40 million for road repair in the Barnett Shale region; $270,000/day in health-related costs; decrease in property values from 3% – 14%; and so forth.

Mixed Bag

? Thanks to government secrecy, we don’t know how many non-combatants, including children, have been killed by US drones, nor even the long-term impact on the lives of civilians living in drone-attack areas. Recommendation: an inter-agency Task Force to “‘evaluate covert drone operations’ with regard to civilian harm, oversight and accountability”.

? CA will fund “50 open-source digital textbooks, targeted to lower-division courses, which will be produced by California universities” and “a California Digital Open Source Library” is to be created for the books.

Break Time

? Sounds of the Earth.

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