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Greetings on this ghosts & goblins evening!

International Developments

? “Air Raids Increase as Battle for Strategic Areas Intensifies in Syria, Rebels Say”

International Finance

? Remind you of what the states are doing with those “foreclosure fraud settlement” dollars? “A quarter of the 11.7tn yen . . . allocated to rebuild the region [around Fukushima] devastated by last year’s earthquake and tsunami has been spent on projects unrelated to the disaster.” 325,000+ people are still in temporary housing.

? “Fears are growing of food shortages in Haiti, after the strong winds and heavy rain of Hurricane Sandy caused extensive crop damage.” At least 54 of the 70 deaths Sandy caused in the Caribbean were among Haitians.

Money Matters USA

? GM’s South American components turned a $44 million loss in 2011 to a $114 million profit this year. Altogether, international operations (excluding China) “nearly doubled its pretax profits to $689 million.” GM cut 2300 jobs in Europe and expects to cut 300 more–and is shifting its US pension plan “to an annuity managed by The Prudential Insurance Co”, reducing GM’s liability by $29 billion.

? Computers and calculators at the US Department of Labor must be humming if not smoking as they race to release “The Employment Situation” by “8:30am on Friday, Nov. 2, as scheduled.”

? No boom reflected in these stats: “The [mortgage] Refinance Index decreased 6 percent from the previous week to the lowest level since the end of August” with the “refinance share of mortgage activity” down to 80% of all applications.

? Fascinating, if not infuriating, article demonstrating how Fannie Mae is selling “properties with a built in profit to investors” or “increasing losses while discouraging affordable housing”–all done at our expense.

? CA Redevelopment agencies were eliminated last year, with the state poised to absorb the assets. Now, there are almost a dozen lawsuits by cities opposed to “Assembly Bill 1484, a road map for dismantling former redevelopment agency assets”.

Politics USA

? Riveting BBC account of strict voting laws in the US–their origins, motivations and goals.

? What does congress need to do to address the holding of elections during emergencies? Clearly stated “rules dealing with postponing voting in parts of the country . . . extended polling hours, or broader use of absentee ballots.” “Election law has become part of a political strategy” with predictable results, and this needs to be addressed, too.

? Why do poor people vote Republican? Insert a few words in that question and you have part of the answer: Why do poor white people in the South vote Republican? Other reasons include denying that they are poor, believing that they can someday be rich, etc. And then there’s hopelessness, which translates into 59% not voting among those earning less than $10,000 compared to 22% not voting among those earning more than $150,000.

? Moveon.org has a campaign going in the swing states, using documented powers of persuasion. They’re sending “voter report cards”, comparing the number of times each addressee has voted with the average combined number for their entire neighborhood.

? Yesterday we learned about a packet with incorrect information being distributed to Romney poll watchers in WI. Today: “Wisconsin Election Official Confirms Romney Poll Watcher Materials Are Inaccurate”. Neat roundup of many “Nasty campaign tactics: Phony voting instructions” being used around the states.

? Here’s one for those weary of presidential polls: Halloween mask sales indicate an Obama win.

? This election cycle brightens prospects of filibuster reform in the US Senate.

? Why hasn’t housing been a bigger issue in the presidential campaign this year? “‘Housing is not really a winner of an issue for either candidate,’ said [economist] Jed Kolko . . . “Obama doesn’t have big policy successes to point to, which he would need as the incumbent, and Romney doesn’t have bold new policy proposals.”

? The Romney campaign’s staged “storm relief event” definitely had its moments.

? Hot diggity dawg! Here’s your opportunity to “Make Mitt Romney’s tax plan add up!” Scroll down.

? MO Republican US Senate candidate Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin held a rally in Kansas City, attracting a hundred or so people–almost half of whom were protestors. Very loud loud speakers were used to drown out the protestors. Newtie was there, adding to the auditory insult.

? ccAdvertising of Centerville, VA is the source of anti-Obama text messages sent out last night. They managed to get around the prohibition on sending unsolicited text messages by sending the messages as e-mail!

? A Dane County, WI judge has ruled that Gov Scott Walker cannot overrule the State Schools Superintendent since the “state Supreme Court held that lawmakers and the governor cannot give ‘equal or superior authority’ over public education to any other official.”

? A non-religious family wants “under God” removed from the mandatory recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in children’s classrooms since it “is a violation of the state’s constitutional ban on religious discrimination.” (The official Pledge was first used on Columbus Day in 1892; “Under God” was added by Congress in 1954 at the height of the McCarthy Era and was supported by the DAR/SAR and Knights of Columbus.)

Women & Children

? At long, long last: “Boy Scouts of America is hosting an unprecedented closed-door symposium Thursday with other national youth organizations, hoping to share strategies to combat future abuse.” Participating groups include Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the YMCA, Big Brothers Big Sisters. Presentations will be “from some of the nation’s top experts of child sex-abuse prevention” and there will be discussion of sharing even “uncorroborated information about potentially threatening adult volunteers”.

Health, Homelessness and Hunger

? According to a new article in the journal Pediatrics, “Organic diets . . . expose consumers to fewer pesticides, and organic farming has been shown to have less impact on the environment than conventional operations.”

? Based on 11 trials in the UK, Canada, Sweden and the US, scientists say that breast cancer screenings certainly save lives, but also result in over-treatment in many women. Unfortunately, doctors “can’t yet tell which cancers are harmful and which are not.”

Planet Earth News

? “Gas Golden Age Darkens in Europe on U.S. Coal: Energy Markets”. Seems “gas costs three times as much [in the UK] as in the U.S.” During the first six months of this year alone, coal imported from the US to Europe “jumped 32 percent” while “EU carbon-dioxide” increased 10%. The short and sweet of it: “If you burn gas in a power plant you burn money; if you burn coal, you make money.”

? Al Gore’s blog post today warns “Hurricane Sandy is a ‘disturbing sign of things to come’ if the world doesn’t quit ‘dirty energy.’

Mixed Bag

? You’ll sleep better knowing this. “No prank: On Halloween, US military forces train for zombie apocalypse”.

? Ever heard of the Waffle House Index? FEMA uses it as “an informal yet handy way to assess an area’s post-calamity condition”, relying on the chain’s “hardy reputation and presence across the Southeast.”

? Greed dates way back. “Europe’s oldest prehistoric town unearthed in Bulgaria” which may account for “the oldest hoard of gold objects found anywhere in the world.”

Break Time

? Twofer: Henri again and Witchin’ music