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The Roundup for January 28, 2013

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International Developments

? According to the mayor of Timbuktu, “Fleeing Islamist insurgents burnt two buildings containing priceless books as French-led troops approached”.  Update: French troops are now in Timbuktu.

? Demonstrations and protests continue in Egypt, following the state of emergency President Mohamed Mursi declared yesterday for Cairo, Port Said  and Ismailiya.  The “Unfinished Revolution“.

? “Israel has admitted for the first time that it has been giving Ethiopian Jewish immigrants birth-control injections, often without their knowledge or consent.”  Seems to be Depo-Provera.

? Morocco wants to donate $500m to a reconciliation effort aimed at Palestinian factions.

International Finance

? Imagine a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos consisting of Karl Marx, Maynard Keynes, Milton Friedman, Fritz Schumacher and conducted by IMF head Christine Lagarde.  Good one, too.

? “Britain’s Economy Is a Disaster and Nobody Is Entirely Sure Why:  Britain’s GDP fell again in the fourth quarter of 2012, raising the specter of  a triple-dip recession.”

? Japanese regulators are saying the maker of the lithium-ion battery used in Boeing’s 787 passenger jets does not seem to have been at fault.  Investigations continue.

Money Matters USA

? Remember that end-of-week story about $114 billion being withdrawn from the nation’s banks with no explanation?  Nathan Tankus concludes it’s “a story to watch” since nobody can explain movement of such a huge amount–and “in an unexpected direction”.

? The Treasury Dept did not “rein in excessive pay” at AIG, GM and Ally–all bailed out with US taxpayers’ dollars.  That’s according to the Inspector General.  According to Treasury’s person in charge, Treasury “has limited excessive compensation while at the same time keeping compensation at levels that enable” the companies to be competitive and repay their bailout money.  Say what?

? A federal grand jury in CT has issued a “16-count indictment charging . . . Jesse C. Litvak [of Jeffries & Co.] of New York City with [residential mortgage-backed] securities fraud, Troubled Asset Relief Program fraud and making false statements” to the feds.

? DDay walks us through the process CA progressives used to accomplish the nearly impossible: balancing CA’s budget.  Much work remains, but the CA experience provides lessons for progressives in other states, and the US capitol, who must contend with budgetary crises and Republican obstructionism simultaneously.

? Paul Krugman on national economic priorities vs national economic realities.  Video.

? “The Rise of the Permanent Temp Economy“.  Sobering stats–1/3 of adults in poverty are working “but do not earn enough to support themselves and their families”; 1/4 of US jobs pay below the federal poverty level; and these poorly-paid, temp jobs “have become so widespread that they threaten to become the norm.”

? This is projected to continue for yet another ten years:  “Nearly half of working Americans with college degrees are in jobs for which they’re overqualified”.

? “Economists are increasingly, but still cautiously, optimistic about growth in the year ahead”.  Half of business economists polled expect the GDP to grow 2 – 4%.

? Durable goods orders rose 4.6% in December–“for an unprecednted fourth consecutive month, indicating manufacturing will keep improving in 2013.”

Politics USA

? Bipartisan Immigration Reform announced today by eight Senators.  More “border security measures”, “e-verify program” so employers don’t hire illegal workers, “expanded visa and guest worker programs” and a “path to citizenship”.

? Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is saying that House Republicans won’t shut down the government, but will hold “spending at levels written into law”. He’s also sure “the sequester’s across-the-board spending cuts to domestic programs and defense are unlikely to be avoided.”

? That AZ dark money outfit, Americans for Responsible Leadership, which was caught funneling $11m into CA to defeat two state Propositions, was run by one Robert Graham.  He’s now rewarded for his meritorious work by being elected Chair of the Arizona Republican Party.  He’s a tea-party respecter.

? June 25th is the date for MA’s special election for John Kerry’s Senate seat.

? “Liberal and Democratic-aligned groups” might provide “organizational and financial support to a tea party challenger against Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)”.

? “Papa John’s Blames The Media for Obamacare Blunder–Requests They Take Stories Down”.  Reaction.

Gun Corner

? Neil Heslin, father of a 6-year-old gunned down in Newtown, finally testified before the  CT state legislature following a false fire alarm (which shut down the capitol for 45 minutes).  During his emotional testimony, wondering why Bushmaster assault weapons are sold in the state, gun enthusiasts present yelled “Second Amendment!”

?  “Law enforcement competing with civilians for ammunition”–at least in South St. Paul MN.

Women & Children

? The Violence Against Women Act comes up for reauthorization in the Senate next week.

? The US Justice Dept has sued Angel Dillard, an anti-abortion activist in KS, for sending a threatening letter to a Wichita physician in 2011.  Dillard is an admirer of Scott Roeder who murdered Dr. George Tiller in 2009 and who now enjoys much attention from the anti-abortion zealots.

Education Directions

? New York City’s Dept of Education is expecting “4- and 5-year-olds to write ‘informative/explanatory reports’ and demonstrate ‘algebraic thinking.'”  Something called The Common Core has caught the fancy of the NYC’s Dept of Education.  Origins of the Common Core are here, more info is here, including which states participate in the Common Core program.

Working for A Living

? KS Chamber of Commerce lobbyist “admits that so-called ‘Right-to-Work’ and ‘Paycheck Protection’ bills are really just meant to bust unions and strip workers of their rights.” Video.

Retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) once proposed a pension plan for workers without one, which included  tax credits for employer contributions to such a plan.  Nobody seemed interested then, but with the economy in the shape it’s in, similar ideas are being proposed.

? NJ Republican Gov Chris Christie has vetoed increasing that state’s minimum wage to $8.50/hour and tying it to changes to the US Consumer Price Index.  Christie wanted to increase the minimum wage by 25-cents this year, 50-cents next year and 25-cents the third year.

Heads Up!

? Today’s the day Idle No More will greet “Canadian MPs [as they] return to the House Commons”.  Update:  “First Nations protesters gather for global day of action as MPs return to work”.  Video.

? The Pentagon will be beefing-up its cybersecurity “fivefold”, including expanding its current 900 staff positions for that purpose to 4,900.  They’ll be split into three activities:  national mission forces, combat mission forces and cyber protection forces.

Planet Earth News

? “Two oil barges pushed by a tugboat slammed into a railroad bridge in Vicksburg [MS] . . .  causing one to leak crude oil into the Mississippi River”. Leaking tanker has 80,000 gallons of oil.  Coast Guard says the spill is ‘contained’.  Update:  An oil sheen has been spotted three miles from bridge.

? “Texas A&M part of project to harvest wind energy in the Valley”.  It’s “projected to be the most innovative wind farm built to date and will generate power at peak demand and high capacity.”  18 megawatt wind farm, expected to create 1000 jobs overall.

? New maps show “35,000 More NYC-Area Buildings in Flood Zones”.

Mixed Bag

? Monsignor Kevin Wallin of Waterbury, CT was running a couple of businesses on the side–methamphetamine ($300,000/year) and a “small adult video and sex toy shop” for money laundering purposes.

Break Time

? Cortez the Killer.

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