Here’s your news wrap-up as we head into the weekend. See you back here Sunday evening.
❖”Barack Obama tells EU: boost growth now or face a global crisis”. Specifically, he is supposed to urge Germany’s Merkel to “ease the pain of austerity” during the G8 meeting at Camp David. UK’s Cameron is expected to be Obama’s ally in this.
❖Following on the heels of yesterday’s reports about Spanish bank losses, comes the news (not unexpected) that “Moody’s has cut the credit ratings of 16 Spanish banks . . . and also the debt rating on Santander UK, a subsidiary of the Spanish banking giant.”
❖Although things in Europe are not looking so good, “Japan’s economy grew by a faster-than-expected 1.0 percent” in the first quarter of 2012, and anticipates further expansion. Key to the recent growth “is public investment, which rose 5.4 percent, amid strong reconstruction spending, while exports rose 2.9 percent on quarter.
❖They thought a ban would work? There’s a ban in Frankfurt, Germany, on demonstrating against austerity policies, but that isn’t working out so well. A 4-day “Blockupy” is going on there, with 400 demonstrators arrested so far. Since the European Central Bank is at the center of the protest; police sealed it off so it will come to no harm. One protestor proclaimed, “The ECB shouldn’t give the cheap money to banks, but rather to countries.”
❖Jimmy Carter’s organization has been given the ok by the State Department to send 22 observers as part of an 80-person delegation from 14 countries to observe the Egyptian elections next week.
❖Just how many jobs have been cut in the US public sector? According to the Labor Dept’s survey of employers, there are 586,000 fewer public sector jobs now than in Dec 2008. However, according to their household survey, there were an average of 20.3 million government employees in Feb thru April 2012, or 1.2 million less than the average for Oct thru Dec 2008. Interesting explanations for the marked difference in the two numbers.
❖”Hatred of those on benefits is dangerously out of control”. Although this article is about the UK, much of it is quite familiar here (of course, Murdoch news is involved on both continents, too). As the author notes, “a crisis of capitalism [was turned] into a crisis of public spending” and the cure (severe cuts to the “safety net”) “can only be achieved by a campaign of demonisation–to crush any potential sympathy.”
❖”Premiums for so-called force-place insurance have more than tripled since 2004, producing enormous profits for insurers and the banks that take out policies when a homeowner fails to maintain coverage required by the mortgage, according to New York regulators.” Premiums for force-place insurance are “exponentially higher” than the more common-place homeowners insurance and are yet one more reason some homeowners fall into foreclosure. New York’s Department of Financial Services Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky used the example of JPMorgan Chase which “pays high premiums to insurer Assurant, which in turn reinsures 75 percent of the risk through JPMorgan’s Vermont-based captive insurance subsidiary.” That and other disturbing stories and evidence are here.
❖And from the NATO summit in Chicago is this good news: “A coalition of nurses’ unions is calling for a ‘Robin Hood’ tax on Wall Street, which they say could generate up to $350 billion a year . . ..” They propose a 50-cent tax on every $100 traded in stocks, bonds, dividends, etc.–which are currently not taxed in the US, though they are in about a dozen other countries. Go nurses!
❖Is he losing that magic touch? According to Politico, “GOP rookies revolt against Grover Norquist’s grip” and just don’t see why they have to adhere to his anti-tax pledge for the duration of their political careers.
❖A few strange reports are out about use of Capital One credit cards to make donations to Friends of Scott Walker. In one instance, a woman had a grocery purchase denied, only to discovery the card had been used earlier in a “potentially fraudulent” $5 donation to Friends of Scott Walker. More here.
❖”The Massachusetts Democratic Party said Thursday it had made Freedom of Information Act requests to six government agencies in hopes of learning whether Senator Scot P. Brown had helped JP Morgan Chase seek a loopholes in a law meant to limit risky trading.” Campaign contributions to Brown from JPMorgan employees, lobbying by JPMorgan to ease restrictions have been noted. And now Elizabeth Warren has been raising other issues as well.
❖The War on Women continues in the House. The Subcommittee on the Constitution denied US Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) permission to address a bill banning all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy in DC. Persons allowed to address the committee about the bill, however, included physicians who are opposed to abortion.
❖Yesterday we learned that the AL legislature had passed an immigration bill with some provisions worse than the ones in existing law, but the governor had refused to sign it. Instead, he called the legislature into a special session. They’re still working on the legislation, although enforcement of some sections of the existing law “has been temporarily suspend by federal courts”. Stay tuned.
❖Surely everyone will breathe a sigh of relief upon learning that Newt Gingrich “Is No Longer ‘Mad‘ That Bain Killed Jobs”. Of course, the Obama campaign’s use of the theme that Bain killed jobs probably hasn’t set too well with the Republican leadership, either.
❖Facebook didn’t exactly fall flat on its face, but its first day as a public company was rather flat. Shares “closed at $38.23, just 0.6 percent above the initial public offering price. More here.
❖Prosecutors in the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman case have now released many documents, including “audio recordings of investigators’ interviews with witnesses, and 183 pages of police reports and other records, some of them partially redacted.” THC found in Martin’s blood, bullet hole analysis indicating Martin was shot at close range, eye-witness accounts, and many other revelations are included.
❖Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff who was imprisoned and tortured during the military regime, will be one of 120 people to receive apologies from the governor of Rio de Janeiro for incarcerations and torture.
❖Colombia has arrested a local Liberal Party politician, the only one of 12 FARC hostages held for two years to be released alive in 2009. The charge: He participated in his own kidnapping, according to testimony from a former FARC member. “Macabre” was the response of the Liberal Party leader to these accusations.
❖”Lisa Haugaard of the Latin America Working Group told a U.S. congressional committee for the advocacy of human rights that 2012 has remained ‘grim’ for unionists and human rights defenders in Colombia, 13 of whom were killed in the first three months of the year.” Ms. Haugaard also “denounced Obama’s approval of progress made under Colombia’s Labor Action Plan”, part of the Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Columbia that was signed in 2011.
❖That Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Colombia, btw, was supposed to lead to more jobs and a better economy. According to Andean farmers, however, that has not happened and they are afraid “they will become prey of large U.S. agribusiness.”
❖The “Summer Santa” of Clark County, KY. He bought it all up and gave it all away–to his county’s nonprofit Community Services for families in crisis situations.