International Developments

❖ “Aleppo: How Syria Is Being Destroyed” What is the Syrian war? Depends on who defines it. “It is a class war of the suburban proletariat against a state army financed by the bourgeoisie. It is a sectarian war in which the Sunni Arab majority is fighting to displace an Alawi ruling class. It is a holy war of Sunni Muslims against all manifestations of Shiism, especially the Alawite variety.”

Meetings in Egypt among opposition leaders to determine the future course of action as President Mohammed Morsi has rejected expanded presidential powers but insists on the December 15th referendum on the new constitution.

International Finance

❖ Now that Silvio Berlusconi has announced he will run once again for Prime Minister and his PDL has withdrawn its support from the current government which has “harmed Italy” with its austerity policies, current Prime Minister Mario Monti is planning to resign.

❖ “Germany’s central bank cut its economic growth forecast and warned of a looming recession in Europe’s largest economy, underscoring the toll southern Europe’s debt crisis and a weaker global economy are taking on the euro bloc’s prosperous northern core.”

❖ The UK’s Standard Chartered “expects to pay another $330m to resolve all outstanding investigations into its US sanctions breaches, in addition to the $340m it has already handed over to the New York state Department of Financial Services.” NY’s Dept of Financial Services accused the bank of “hiding illegal transactions with Iran”.

Money Matters USA

❖ Five members of the “Fix the Debt” Crowd of CEOs, who have over $150 million currently in their own retirement accounts, are heads of corporations which have cost the US: 108,000 jobs since 2007; and $48 billion in federal income taxes by using tax credits and deductions available to them. This crew is telling the rest of us to suck it up and give them more.

Farm subsidies and crop insurance payments for the US by each state and county, and by individual recipient.

❖ According to the Congressional Budget Office capping itemized deductions would have a negative effect on charitable contributions to “universities, non-profit hospitals, social services providers, arts and cultural institutions and other nonprofit organizations”–reducing contributions by $150 billion over 10 years ($50,000 cap) or $200 billion ($25,000 cap).

Automatic deductions from paychecks for student loan borrowers in the future? A bill is in the works to do just that.

Capital Appreciation Bonds (CABs) are used by school districts in CA to get millions in federal funds through a matching arrangement–borrow $2.5 million to get a $25 million loan to be paid off some time in the future. The federal amount is subsidized; the CAB is not and results in “balloon” payments that can be devastating. All total, CA school districts have borrowed $3 billion but will be paying back $16 billion to CABs.

❖ A report done for the US Department of Energy was positive about expanding natural-gas exports. However, OR Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, Chair of the Senate Energy Committee, is not so enthusiastic, nor are “manufacturing and chemical companies”. Royal Dutch Shell’s US president “predicts the federal government will provide a green light for expanded exports of natural gas” through a “phased approach”.

❖ The War on Terrorism has cost the US $2 trillion and resulted in “the largest expansion of the federal government since World War II.” It is time “to begin a serious conversation about a path out of permanent war.”

Hedge fund closures continue, with 424 shutting their doors in the first half of 2012. Reasons vary widely, from owing millions “to resolve insider-trading allegations”, to lack of “deal activity”, etc.

Politics USA

❖ While talking on the teevee today, OK Republican House member Tom Cole said “middle income tax cuts would pass the House if brought up” and TN Republican Senator Bob Corker thinks “allowing tax rates on the wealthy [to] return to Clinton-era levels” is “the best route for us to take”.

❖ Former Republican, former Independent, and former FL Gov. Charlie Crist has now joined the Democratic Party.

Voter photo ID is scheduled to become an issue again in Alaska as Anchorage Republican and chair of the House State Affairs Committee Bob Lynn sets about reviving it.

Women & Children

❖ A human chain in Rabat, Morocco stretched from the justice ministry to Parliament yesterday, denouncing “physical, verbal and moral violence, as well as the harassment of women”. Six million women annually suffer from violence in the country, which has a total population of 32 million.

Working for A Living

❖ Tuesday is the day MI Republican Gov Rick Snyder is expected to sign the so-called “right-to-work” bills approved by the legislature last week in the midst of a furor. Union members and others are expected to show up in the thousands for the occasion.

A strike was called Saturday by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (“freelance technical employees who work on live sporting events for Pac-12 Networks”). They’re calling for wage and benefits standards. Picket lines were set up at certain sites in CA, AZ, OR and WA.

Planet Earth News

❖ Big article on how global warming can be stopped–and how “individuals can do more than they think”.

❖ Since Congress has done nothing over the past four years to apply brakes to carbon pollution, the Natural Resources Defense Council recommends executive authority be used to establish carbon emission rates on existing power plants through the Clean Air Act.

❖ The UN climate change talks at Doha resulted in one hard-won step: “Poor countries have won historic recognition of the plight they face from the ravages of climate change, wringing a pledge from rich nations that they will receive funds to repair the ‘loss and damage’ incurred.”

Heads Up!

❖ Meetings are on-going between the White House and US Justice Department concerning any legal actions to be taken against CO and WA where voters have approved legalization of the recreational use of marijuana.

Latin America

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was supposed to have returned to Cuba today for further cancer surgery. Speaking to the nation, Chavez said “If something happens that disables me in some way, my irrevocable opinion is that you should elect Nicolas Madura as the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”

Break Time

Birds of Paradise