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The Roundup for November 19, 2012

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International Developments

? “The number of Palestinians killed in Gaza during Israel’s on-going offensive reached 100 on Monday, the Hamas-run Health Ministry said.”

? Morocco will begin immediately setting up a field hospital in Gaza “to help Palestinians injured in Israeli air strikes, which the king [Mohammed VI] described as ‘military aggression’ in a statement.”

? Talks between the US and Afghan officials are underway concerning keeping American troops there beyond the 2014 withdrawal date. Immunity for US soldiers is a major “stumbling block.”

International Finance

? “Euroscepticism in Britain has been exacerbated by the eurozone crisis and a British exit from the European Union is now being openly discussed–unless London’s calls for reforms are taken seriously.”

Money Matters USA

? Big struggle going on in the Senate: The banksters vs Elizabeth Warren, the new Senator from MA. They “have [Warren] in their crosshairs.” Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) is trying to get her on the Senate Banking Committee, precisely the place the banksters don’t want her to be.

? The Securities and Exchange Commission had charged one person of “misleading investors in a J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. mortgage-bond deal that imploded during the financial crisis.” They have asked the judge to drop the case, and she has agreed.

? Cell phones went dead in part of New York City for days following Hurricane Sandy. Why? Companies that provide the service are basically in charge of themselves, thanks to “a decade of steady deregulation” and some are even “trying to claim a constitutional right to operate without any federal oversight.”

? “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac owe American taxpayers nearly $140 billion”. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac received bail-out funds–but with apparently no plan for how they’d repay the taxpayers.

? US taxpayers may have to take on “massive pension liabilities” as companies go bankrupt. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporations announced a huge $34 billion shortfall. Currently funded “by way of insurance premiums and portfolio returns”, PBGC’s director warns of the need “for the first time [for] taxpayer funds.”

? Meanwhile, all across the land, corporations are announcing plans to make “special dividend payments ahead of the year end“. Why? If the Bush tax cuts simply expire December 31st, taxes on dividends will automatically go from 15% to 43.4%. Poor dears.

? Republicans tend to like the idea of limiting deductions on federal personal income tax. Problem is, this action “would hit some parts of the country harder than others, with a series of high-income blue states leading the way.” Alternatively, why not tax investment income as ordinary income is now taxed?

? Interesting idea in yesterdays’ New York Times: “To Reduce Inequality, Tax Wealth, Not Income”

? Several states asked the Environmental Protection Agency to waive the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, requiring a blending of ethanol and gasoline. The drought is placing major stress on the meat and poultry industries which need grain for food. The EPA refused to grant the waiver.

? Krugman again tackles a wrong-headed argument. Today’s economy offers “no stability. no guarantees that hard work will provide a consistent living, and a constant possibility of being thrown aside”. It is precisely “the kind of economy that should have a strong welfare state”.

Politics USA

? Hottest issue in Congress among the Republicans these days appears to be the Benghazi “talking points”. Even merits an investigation, it seems. Meanwhile, the needs of the citizenry of this country continue to mount.

? What’s up with Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York and a Democrat? He has “conspicuously” removed himself from state senate contests, and has been leaning rightward.

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

? The General Accounting Office has concluded that “Medicaid patients reported no more challenges finding doctors than those on private coverage.” Ah, but here’s the catch: “While children tended to have equal access to doctors regardless of their insurance source, adults in Medicaid fared worse than those on private insurance.”

? Major breakthrough on the health front: “New nanoparticle halts multiple sclerosis, now being tested in Type 1 diabetes and asthma.”

? Under HR 6597, people could obtain an exemption from Obamacare by filing an affidavit with the IRS to the effect that their religious beliefs prohibit them from participating. If they later use health services, though, they’d lose the exemption and be forced to pay a penalty.

Working for A Living

? Handy tool for finding out about WalMart strikes near you.

? A leaked PowerPoint presentation from Honeywell describes how to dissipate “a nationwide corporate union campaign and . . . as quickly as possible.” Among the how-to’s: continue to develop good relationships within the Obama administration and pursue the same with local officials. A goal: “break up union cohesion across the country.” Honeywell defense contracts info is here.

? Cyber Monday is a post-Thanksgiving industry-promoted activity to get people to use their credit cards online. There is also an anti-Cyber Monday campaign, asking for pledges to not participate in Cyber Monday due to “dangerous, sweatshop-like working conditions facing U.S. warehouse workers who fulfill online orders for retailers like Wal-Mart and Amazon.”

? “[A]ssorted labor union, civil rights and anti-poverty groups face a tough path to winning the extension [of unemployment benefits] at a time when lawmakers are looking for ways to reduce the budget deficit.” Seems we used to call such “ways” balancing the budget on the backs of the poor and downtrodden.

Planet Earth News

? Continuously updated report of the Tarsands Blockade actions.

? “Watch 131 Years of Global Warming in 26 Seconds”. Video.

? No matter what is or isn’t done, Himalayan glaciers “will continue shrinking for many years to come.” And as they shrink, runoff will increase. As temperatures rise, the runoff will be accelerated by more rain than the usual snows, threatening millions of people with huge inundations.

Break Time

? Mt Kailash–dominating the area where the Brahmaputra, Ganges, Sutlef and Indus Rivers originate–sacred to Hindus and Buddhists.

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