CommunityThe Bullpen

The Roundup for December 6, 2012

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Whew! It’s been quite a day in more ways than one. Here’re some of the other ways:

International Developments

? Barricades now surround the Egyptian Presidential Palace in Cairo. Five people were reportedly killed and 644 injured in violent clashes overnight between those supporting and opposing President Mohammed Morsi. Update: Muslim Brotherhood main headquarters in Cairo torched. Morsi says the planned referendum on the new constitution will go ahead and has called for “a meeting with the opposition on Saturday”.

? They’re quick to point out that there’s no evidence the weapons were used in the attack on the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya last September, but it seems arms were shipped to Libyan rebels from Qatar last year–with US “secret blessing”–and did end up in the hands of “Islamic militants”.

European Finance

? Updated, very scary chart showing “European Under-25 ‘Youth’ Unemployment Rates” from 1990 through 2012. Spain and Greece are above 55%, Italy’s at 36.5%.

Money Matters USA

? Neil Barofsky head of the Securities & Exchange Commission? “With a record of challenging Wall Street, Neil Barofsky says he’d take it ‘in a heartbeat.'” Imagine someone who’d reverse the SEC’s record of “settling with corporations without forcing them to admit wrongdoing”. Great interview in which Barofsky discusses what he’d do if given the opportunity.

? Some homes’ values plummeted drastically due to Superstorm Sandy, while additional expenses caused by Sandy had a major impact on ability to make mortgage payments. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, “which own or control about half of all outstanding mortgages . . . have authorized loan services to suspend payments for up to one year” and some lenders do offer relief (usually for 90 days), but not all, and the terms of suspension can be tough.

? How to reduce inequality without touching taxes: encourage unions; “discourage imports from countries with cheap, unskilled labor”; “reorient Fed policy to benefit lower-income workers”; reform patent laws so prices on items such as medications could be lowered; adequately fund early childhood education; accelerate lead removal, thus reducing crime; among others.

? Derek Khanna drafted a copyright-reform memo for the Republican Study Committee in the House which contained suggestions that would have benefitted the American public. Seems his memo “raised the ire of content industry lobbyists” who complained to the GOP who promptly took action and fired Khanna.

Politics USA

? Richard Clarke, yes that Richard Clark, has written an article in the New York Daily News extolling the use of drones. As he says, “Those attacking remote-piloted aircraft must realize they’re among our best anti-terror weapons”.

? It’s picking up a little steam. “A few dozen Republicans have joined a bipartisan call to break the impasse” over the budget. Two Republican Representatives, Kay Granger of TX and Tom Cole of OK, have specifically called for extending the middle-class tax cuts.

? House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is cleaning house. He’s warned his group that “leaders are ‘watching’ how the rank and file vote to determine committee assignments”. Seems they haven’t been good team players, so no more Mr. Nice Guy.

? IL Republican Senator Mark Kirk is planning to return to the Senate on January 3, 2013. He suffered a stroke in January, 2012 and has been recuperating.

? “Fox News White House correspondent Ed Henry said . . . that some Fox commentators have covered the attacks in Benghazi ‘more than it needed to be covered.'”

? “Half of Michigan’s African Americans Lose Self-Government: Are over half of Mich African Americans about to be under the control of an Emergency Financial Mgr?”

? 49% of Republican believe that ACORN “stole the election for President Obama”. Of course, 52% of them thought the same thing in 2008–but, then, ACORN actually existed in 2008. Must be the new industrial-strength Denial at work.

? What a twosome: Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff were seen doing lunch together at Sushi Taro near Dupont Circle. Reminiscing about old times or hatching up some new ones?

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

? While many Republicans want to raise the age of Medicare eligibility, insurers are reluctant. Need for medical care increases as people approach middle-age and their senior years. Increasing Medicare eligibility age even a year or so would throw millions onto private insurance which would much rather have government foot the bill.

? NJ Republican Gov. Chris Christie just vetoed a bill setting up the health care exchange for his state. 18 other states have also declined.

Education Directions

? The University of Phoenix, a for-profit business, has “raked in billions of dollars through federal financial aid programs”, but “serves students poorly and leaves them saddled with debt they cannot repay.” Not in good fiscal shape, the University of Phoenix is now trying to partner with community colleges, with mixed results.

? And in FL, results from a new teacher evaluation system were released on the state’s Department of Education website, then pulled because they were “wrong”. Politicians pushed the new system through and critics are now having a “we-told-you-so” field day.

? TN Gov. Bill Haslam (Republican) has decided to call vouchers ‘opportunity scholarships’ since people don’t much like the term ‘vouchers’. Regardless of the euphemism, Haslam’s plan is to make the vouchers available statewide. StudentsFirst’s PAC occupies “the No. 1 position” in campaign funds for both TN Aug 2 primaries and the Nov 6 general election. StudentsFirst supports vouchers, though with some controls.

Working for A Living

? Darden Restaurants, which owns Olive Garden and Red Lobster, has decided cutting employees’ hours as a protest or whatever to the Affordable Care Act is not such a good thing. They’ve issued a public statement assuring everyone that “None of Darden’s current full-time employees . . . will have their full-time status changed as a result of healthcare reform”. Not sure what that means for future employees, though.

Heads Up!

? The Congressional Public Interest Declassification Board, “paints a devastating picture of a secrecy system that is ‘outmoded and unsustainable’. The credibility of the system is under threat . . . from widespread over-classification that in turn is fostering the growth of leaking government information. . . . [T]oo many secrets . . . overly complex . . . and a culture . . . that defaults to the avoidance of risk rather than its proper management.”

Planet Earth News

? It appears the UN meeting on the environment in Doha will go beyond the scheduled ending date of Friday. The “developed world [is] refusing to deliver on finance, equity, adaptation and even . . . the Kyoto Protocol’s continued existence beyond 2013.”

? Always in the vanguard, “A group of GOP House energy leaders advised Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius to exercise caution” in “considering examining a potential link between hydraulic fracturing . . . and drinking water”. They cite possible job loss and, of course, the possibility of “naturally occurring substances in groundwater” being labeled contaminants.

? On average, new cars in the US have led to a 20% reduction in emissions/driver. Chart included.

Latin America

? “The Supreme Court of Mexico issued a unanimous ruling Wednesday afternoon that paves the way to universal marriage rights in the country.”

? “Norway will close its embassy in Venezuela because of rampant crime in the South American country and move the diplomatic mission to neighboring Colombia”.

Mixed Bag

? RIP Oscar Niemeyer, innovative architect, designer of Brasilia.

? A newspaper reporter’s eyewitness account of Pearl Harbor, never before published. The reporter, btw, has lived long enough to see her article–finally–in print.

? Need a crescent wrench? Just print one.

Break Time

? Something soothing sure seems in order today.

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