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The Roundup for December 2, 2012

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Your news for this soggy Sunday:

International Developments

? “Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court has said it is halting all work indefinitely in protest at the ‘psychological pressure’ it has faced.” Due to Islamist protesters the court was unable to meet in Cairo and declared today “the blackest day in the history of Egyptian judiciary.”

? Reports abound that “President Bashar al-Assad was preparing loyal divisions to defend the city, the capital and heart of his power.” Rebels and government forces are fighting on the very outskirts of Damascus.

? Turkey claims to have information that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria might use chemical weapons and has requested NATO Patriot missiles be placed in its territory as a defensive measure.

? M23 fighters have withdrawn from the town of Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The 10-day occupation of Goma ended after M23 reached an agreement with representatives of the neighboring countries.

International Finance

? As the economic situation in Greece worsens due to run-away Austerity, HIV rates are soaring. “More than 300 people who inject drugs were found to be newly infected between January and August [2012], a more than twentyfold jump over two to five years ago, when 10 to 15 such cases were reported annually”. Seems there were 1,049 new cases by October, 46% of which were intravenous drug users.

Money Matters USA

? “Why the Fiscal Cliff is a Scam“: excellent interview with James K. Galbraith.

? Bank of America has decided not to roll out new checking-account fees as earlier announced. JP Morgan and Wells Fargo announced similar plans to considerable criticism from the public.

? A federal judge in IN has sentenced Tim Durham and two of his associates at Fair Finance for “using the company as their personal bank to make loans to themselves and their family and friends”–and then trying a cover-up. Durham was sentenced to 50 years, one associate to 25 and the other to 10. Meanwhile, back on Wall Street . . .

? “Over the past two decades, the financial services industry has become a pervasively unethical and highly criminal industry, with massive fraud tolerated or even encouraged by senior management. But how did that happen? . . . The critical unifying factor is the total number of criminal prosecutions of major firms and senior executives . . . Zero.”

? The US Department of Justice began an investigation in January, 2010 into “possible anticompetitive practices in the US seed market” (Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow). It ended the investigation, apparently early last month, “without taking any enforcement action”. Somebody has noticed that Monsanto issued a “brief” news item stating such on Friday before Thanksgiving.

? Experian, Equifax and Transunion are required to provide annual reports so consumers can know what’s being reported about them. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has said that “numerous other credit entities, from bank check screening to medical record checks” must also issue such reports.

? An explanation of Quantitative Easing that is actually understandable.

Politics USA

? While we’re wondering about going over the “fiscal cliff”, a bridge built in 1873 in NJ has collapsed for the second time in four years, resulting in “highly flammable and carcinogenic vinyl chloride” being dumped into a local creek, leading to evacuations of schools and complains of difficulty breathing among residents. Right now, US spending on infrastructure is $139 billion less what is needed to repair the NJ bridge and many others.

? Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has a sense of humor? He reportedly “burst into laughter” as Treasury Secretary Geithner presented the administration’s “fiscal cliff” offer.

? Sen. Jeff Merkeley (D-OR), joined by his colleague Tom Udall (D-NM), seems pleased that momentum is picking up rapidly for filibuster reform in the Senate. He explores the various options in some detail with Grist,

? Longish read on the failure of the war on drugs.

Women & Children

? A TX appeals court has ruled that the Boy Scouts of American does not have to “immediately” release their “perversion files” covering the period 1985 to present. Files from 1959 to 1985 have been released and “revealed a cover-up of decades of sexual abuse”.

Education Directions

? Yay! In LA on Friday, a judge ruled that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s school voucher “overhaul”–diverting public money through the voucher program to private schools–is unconstitutional.

? A study of AZ’s charter schools has some startling findings. Example: 90% of all charter schools are permanently exempt from competitive bidding requirements, resulting in “purchases from their own officials [ranging] from curriculum and business consulting to land leases and transportation services.” And AZ is not unique.

? A charter school failed in Orange County, FL, awarding the principal $519,000–after having paid $460,000 to her husband over five years for “certain management services”. Much more.

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

? “America’s Stunningly Overpriced Healthcare System in 2 Charts”.

? “Health Insurers Will Be Charged to Use New Exchanges“. But not to worry, Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius is sure competition between insurers for those 30 million new customers will “drive down costs for consumers”. User fees charged by the feds to the insurance companies could add 3.5% to premiums. That’s in addition to an annual fee which is estimated to be $6 billion in 2014.

? DaVita Dialysis Company based in Denver, CO and with about 2000 clinics nationwide, has been accused of massive Medicare and Medicaid fraud by billing medications that were allegedly thrown away.

? Community responses to those homeless persons still able to live in their vehicles cover quite a range across the US.

Working for A Living

? WalMart’s starting the new year off with a jolt. They’ll no longer provide health insurance to new employees working under 30 hours/week (how many hours people work is mainly up to the managers).

? Los Angeles and Long Beach ports are idle again today, the fifth day of a strike by around 500 International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 members. Other ILWU locals are honoring the picket line. Altogether, some 10,000 ILWU members are involved.

? In Moorhead, MN, American Crystal Sugar workers, members of the Bakery, Confectionery and Tobacco Workers Local 167G, rejected the company’s contract offer again, but by 55% this time, down from 96% sixteen months ago when they first voted on it. Many workers, apparently, have retired or found other jobs.

Planet Earth News

? 66 kinds of coral in the US Pacific and Caribbean are to receive federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, thanks to pressure from the Center for Biological Diversity which sued about it.

? “The polar ice sheets are melting three times faster than they were 20 years ago . . . at ‘the high end’ of forecasts by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change . . . in 2007.”

? Lease sales of areas off RI, MA and VA for wind farms was announced by the US Interior Department. Sales will begin during the first half of 2013.

? What’s gone missing in an IA corn field.

Latin America

? At their summit this past week, Unasur (Union for South American Nations) “categorically rejected a referendum” taking place next March in the Falklands/Malvinas Islands. They supported taking some action against vulture funds.

Mixed Bag

? RI colony founder Roger Williams‘ code has finally been cracked. Fascinating stuff emerging from the translation, including his belief that conversion of American Indians “was being achieved through treachery and coercion”.

? Over the weekend, the Great Sioux Nation did raise the $9 million needed to purchase Pe’sia, the Black Hills area they’ve held sacred for thousands of year. People all over the world contributed to the effort. Video.

Break Time

? Tribute to Edward Curtis who spent three decades photographing American Indians.

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