CommunityThe Bullpen

The Roundup for November 27, 2012

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Good evening, all!

International Developments

? “France announced Tuesday that it plans to vote in favor of recognizing a Palestinian state at the U.N. General Assembly this week”, the “first major Europe country to come out in favor . . . Britain’s position remains unclear.” Interestingly enough, yesterday we were told “Britain ready to back Palestinian statehood at UN”.

? “Tens of thousands of people have held protests in Cairo against Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi, who last week granted himself sweeping new powers.” Accusations of betrayal against both Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

? Over the summer, “Flight Records Say Russia Sent Syria [200] Tons of Cash“–though neither the type of currency nor the value was specified. Sort of reminiscent of the billions flown into Iraq, in individual “bricks” of $400,000 each, packed onto pallets.

? “The resurgent conflict in the vast African nation of Congo involves several armed groups, at least two other countries and the minerals [gold, tin, tungsten, copper, coltan and cobalt] . . . It’s complicated but it boils down to a struggle for wealth, ethnic animosity and a lack of central government control.” Concise, clearly-written article on a very complex and tragic situation.

? Four more Tibetan self-immolations in China, and a protest by more than 1,000 students in Quinghai province, interrupted by police, resulting in 20 hospitalizations. 80+ Tibetans are known to “have set themselves alight since 2011”.

International Finance

? A report from Deutsche Bank in support of the predatory, parasitic TBTF banks and “Why it would be wrong to split them up” caught the eye of one Chris Whalen who knowledgeably, succinctly and utterly destroys each argument made. It’s a great read.

? Dairy farmers throughout the Eurozone converged on Brussels yesterday to protest falling milk prices. They disrupted traffic and sprayed police with milk. They also sprayed the European Parliament building with milk and lit up a trailer of hay.

? “Afghanistan’s failed Kabul Bank was involved in a fraud that funnelled almost $900m into the pockets of a small number of the political elite, an independent auditors’ report says.”

Money Matters USA

? US consumer confidence has risen to “73.7 in November, highest level since February 2008.”

? Hard-hitting article on the “gang of brazen CEOs [which] has joined forces to promote economically disastrous and socially irresponsible austerity policies. . . . Using the excuse of a phony, manufactured crisis known as the ‘fiscal cliff'”. Nine are presented, some vainglorious, some ill-tempered–all super-wealthy and eager for more.

? Why “The 401(k) Is a $240 Billion Waste“.

? “POP QUIZ: How Much Have Phoenix Home Prices Risen In The Last 12 Months?”

Politics USA

? New CNN/OCR poll reveals “67% of the public wants tax increases as part of the fiscal cliff bargain”–including 51% of conservative Republicans polled. If talks fail, 45% will hold Republicans, and 34% Obama, responsible.

? Seems those making $250,00-$400,000/year (the “Wall Street stiffs”), will be hit hardest under GOP tax proposals aimed at cutting deductions, according to Nate Silver’s study. Paul Krugman also notes the impact will be “trivial for the Masters of the Universe making $10 million or more”.

? 12 ways the GOP could hurt Americans in the “Grand [for whom?] Bargain”: make Medicaid recipients pay more; cut food stamps which 45 million people rely on; let long-term unemployment insurance expire; cut SSI (blind, elderly and disabled), Pell grants, Section 8 Housing, Head Start, Job Training, LIHEAP, Community Health Centers, Title I Education grants and WIC.

? Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said today that raising the debt ceiling must be part of “any deal” made about the “Fiscal Cliff”.

? Another CNN poll shows 54% “disapprove of the White House’s handling of the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, although an equal percentage don’t think “the administration purposefully misled them”.

? Oh, noooos: “[US Ambassador to the UN Susan] Rice fails to convince Republican senators on Benghazi attack.”

? Newly-re-elected Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) announced he will be focusing on Wal-Mart since it is “the largest recipient of public aid in the country”–paying such low wages that employees are “forced” to “take food stamps, housing assistance and Medicaid just to get by.”

? OH Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted said he wanted to “eliminate Ohio’s status as a swing state”, but he now says that what he did say was “badly taken out of context” and what people thought he said was not what he meant to say and so on.

? “States crack down on campaigning nonprofits: State regulators increase pressure on advocacy groups active in the election to disclose their donors. There is no such effort on the federal level.” Gee, why not?

? Blue Dog Dem Rep Health Shuler (D-NC) is headed directly from his desk in Congress to a desk at Duke Energy, even though he had pledged not to become a lobbyist.

? A US District Court judge has “ordered the [US] Justice Department . . . reopen an investigation into leaks to journalists [by two senior prosecutors] in the Danziger Bridge [New Orleans – Katrina] case.” The judge doesn’t think there’s “sufficient evidence” to overturn the convictions of officers in the shooting of unarmed New Orleans residents, however.

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

? Last year’s food safety bill law gave the US Food & Drug Administration “new regulatory muscle”, enabling them to react quickly and decisively to a salmonella outbreak across several states due to contaminated peanut butter manufactured by Sunland Inc. Production has been halted and officials have scoured the plant in search of sources of contamination.

Women & Children

? The UN General Assembly on Monday passed its first resolution condemning female genital mutilation, which opponents say more than 140 million woman worldwide have had to endure.” The goal is to permanently end the practice “in one generation”.

Education Directions

? Finland is ranked first in the world in terms of its education system, followed by South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and the UK. Guess where the US is.

? Why is Finland tops in education? By “going against the evaluation-driven, centralized model” used in the West. There are no tests during the first six years of schooling, 30% get “extra help during their first nine years of school”, etc.–with 66% going on to college. And all of this costs Finland 30% less/student than in the US.

Planet Earth News

? For the first time ever, a large tanker has sailed north through the Arctic on its way from Norway to Japan, cutting the travel time by 20 days. Global warming has made this possible.

? Scientists are very alarmed by an epidemic of coral disease off Hanalei Bay in Kauai, HI. “Something is causing the entire reef system here . . . to lose its immune system.”

? Scientists have found “a diverse community of bugs” in a “salty, sub-zero” Antarctic lake that “have been sealed off from the outside world for some 2,800 years.”

Latin America

? Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez is returning to Cuba for more cancer treatment.

Mixed Bag

? Cambridge’s Centre for the Study of Existential Risk is going “to assess whether technology could end up destroying human civilization”.

? PacMan on Mimas and Tethys. Who knew?

Break Time

? Oh, go fly a kite!

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