Here it is, Friday the 13th and we’re all safely back at the Roundup. Hope this Friday gateways into a great weekend for you.

International Developments

❖ “Tunisian Islamists stress democracy, not hardline religious rule, as they open party congress.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has now embroiled herself in the circumcision controversy, after a regional court in Cologne “ruled it amounted to bodily harm”. Merkel thinks it’s a matter “of protecting religious freedom”.

International Economics

❖ “It must be the biggest confidence trick of all time. It is a cheat, a sham, a fiddle, a banker’s ramp, a revenge of big money against an ungrateful world. It is called quantitative easing, and nobody has a clue what it means. . . . This enormous sum does not exist and never has. It is not “printed” money or funny money. It is no money. The one silver bullet on which the coalition relies to pull Britain out of recession is a fiction.”

❖ “The Market Has Spoken, and It Is Rigged“. Simon Johnson: “The behavior at Barclays has all the hallmarks of fraud–intentional deception for personal gain, causing significant damage to others.”

❖ “Moody’s has cut Italy’s credit rating warning that the country was likely to see a sharp rise in borrowing cost”. From “A3 to Baa2, two levels above junk status.”

❖ Maybe they want Greece to move toward a more leftist government? “Earlier this week, Greek leaders suggested they would ask for more time to hit austerity targets demanded by their creditors. Germany, though, is opposed . . . IMF head Christine Lagarde also said it is ‘premature to discussion extension.’”

❖ The veil has been lifted just a tad: “The global economic crisis has hit millions where it hurts
the most: in the pocketbook. But a study released Thursday by the US-based Pew Research Center also finds that the crisis has damaged their faith in political leaders and the free market economy in general.”

Money Matters USA

Barclays did inform the New York Fed (Timothy Geithner on duty at the time) in 2008 that “we know that we’re not posting um, an honest Libor” but figured most others weren’t, either. One year earlier, Barclays questioned the accuracy of the rate, but nothing was done, since “the reports were only anecdotal and did not provide definitive proof of widespread manipulation.” More here.

❖ As LBJ said, “Better to have them inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in.” Neil Barofsky was special inspector general over the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, and “a relentless critic of the Wall Street bailout” and of one Timothy Geithner, too. Barofsky now has a book about to be released. One juicy part: Barofsky wanted banks to “precisely account for how they spent TARP money. Geithner said that was difficult to do because banks commingle all their funds.” And so on.

❖ “The rising credit risks in US student loans” notes the amount borrowed has almost trebled between 2002-2011 and college enrollment continues to rise. A large number of borrowers “are set to enter the payment cycles in the next few years” while the labor market is weak. Almost 20% of outstanding balances are held by people 50+ years of age, with borrowers over 60 owing an average of $18,250.

Politics USA

❖ Do Republican leaders want the Postal Service to fail? “The cash-strapped U.S Postal Service is within weeks of defaulting on a legally required $5.5 billion payment into a health benefits fund for future retirees. So far, it appears House leaders have no intention of preventing that from happening . . ..” One House Republicans from FL, Dennis Ross, has a bill to reduce the payment to $1 billion, but no one seems interested.

❖ There will probably be no action on the Farm Bill until after the November elections. Republicans are too concerned with their image: They don’t want to be “portrayed by conservatives as big government spenders . . . and by liberals as the party that wants to virtually gut school lunch and food stamp programs.” Doesn’t seem they’re really that concerned about the latter since a large share of “savings in the House farm bill comes from cutting food stamps.” That means between 2 – 3 million people would lose food stamps and 300,000 children would lose free lunches.

❖ “Nearly 6 Million Americans Can’t Vote Due to Felon Disenfranchisement Laws”. “Mass incarceration” in the US and the recent rush to disenfranchise felons are to blame. “29 states bar them even after they have served their time . . .. The number of affected Americans has ballooned from 1.2 million people in 1976 . . . [to] 5.9 million” in 2010.

Working for A Living

Detroit is planning “$100 million in cuts to the city’s unionized workforce–including a 10% pay decrease, higher out-of-pocket healthcare costs and limits on overtime . . ..” This is being done by Detroit’s Financial Advisory Board, which consists of appointees of the mayor, “the council, Gov Rick Snyder and state Treasurer Andy Dillon.”

Detroit is also planning to allow class sizes to reach 46 students in grades 4-5 before the Detroit Public Schools would take any action, 41 students in grades K-3, and 61 students in grades 6-12. And reorganizing the classes will occur twice yearly.

❖ About 250 Gargiulo tomato workers in CA’s Central Valley have voted to join the United Farm Workers union. They join the approximately 800 employees at Pacific Triple E who signed their contract last month.

The War on Women

❖ That lone abortion clinic in MS is still open since a US District Judge extended the injunction blocking MS’ new law, though he didn’t say for how long the injunction would stand.

MO Democratic Gov Jay Nixon has “vetoed a bill that would have allowed employers or health insurance providers to stop offering coverage for contraception, abortion or sterilization if doing so violated their religious or moral convictions.”

❖ Leave it to TX. The “newest proposed anti-abortion rules from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services” essentially mean that “doctors in Texas aren’t allowed to even talk about [abortion] any more”.

❖ AZ Republican US House member Trent Franks has a bill called the “District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” which, according to the National Women’s Law Center, “has several constitutional problems” which could lead to the Supreme Court. This is the bill which DC Rep Eleanor Holmes Norton tried to testify about but was blocked “in violation of a longstanding congressional tradition”.

Abortion is covered under RomneyCare. Just scroll down to “What benefits will I get?”

Females on Republican House members’ staffs make, on average, $10,093.09 per year less than the males–or 84 cents to the dollar. Females on Democratic House members’ staffs make, on average, $1473.65 per year less than the males–or 97 cents to the dollar. Senate staff salary differences by gender were similar, though female staffers made a bit less, or 92 cents on the dollar.

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

❖ Dr. Theodore J. Cicero, of Washington University’s Department of Psychiatry and author of a recently-released study on the marked increase in heroin rates due to marked decrease in use of OxyContin once an “abuse-resistant formula was introduced,” has pointed to the “utter failure” of the War on Drugs.

❖ “Downtown L.A. CrossFit Gym DeBases Homeless Neighbors in Photos, Facebook Posts”

Mixed Bag

A plague has engulfed parts of TX.

Break Time

❖ I understand it will hit earth tomorrow. Northern Lights in July?