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August 27, 2012

The Roundup for August 27, 2012

Posted in: Uncategorized

Howdy (she said in her best Minnie Pearl imitation), here’s your Monday evening news.

International Developments

❖ “A Syrian helicopter comes down in the capital Damascus, state television reports, with rebels claiming they shot it down.

❖ “Robert Fisk: The Syrian army would like to appear squeaky clean. It isn’t: ‘Our own beloved Free Syria Army has actually advertised its own murders on YouTube.’”

French President Francois Hollande said “France will recognize a provisional Syrian government . . . urging Syria’s fractured political opposition to establish one as soon as possible.” He added that Syria’s use of chemical weapons would be “a legitimate justification for military intervention, even without a United Nations Security Council resolution.”

❖ Two of Libya’s “most revered Sufi shrines” were demolished in broad daylight by religious extremists, perhaps with help from security personnel. Libya’s congress held an emergency session yesterday about the destruction. Libya’s Interior Minister resigned after Congress criticized his handling of the situation.

❖ New attacks in Iraq today killed three, including an Iraqi general.

❖ A Taliban attack during a party in Helmand province of Afghanistan resulted in 17 people beheaded, including two women, who were apparently dancers. A while later, the Taliban “overran an Afghan army post in the same province . . . , killing 10 troopers.”

❖ “Immigration officials in the Bahamas say 152 illegal migrants from Haiti have been detained after their boat ran aground in bad weather” near Mangrove Cay, Andros Island.

❖ “Women in Togo have been urged to abstain from sex for a week from Monday to push their demand for reform.” They want President Faure Gnassingbe, whose family has ruled for more than 4 decades, to step down. Said one woman, “It’s a good thing for us women to observe this sex strike as long as our children are in jail now. I believe that by observing this, we will get them released.”

International Finance

❖ What a concept! Norway has undertaken “an independent public audit of developing countries’ debt to Norway” in order to determine whether “its loans have been useful enough to warrant repayment.” Back in 2006, Norway cancelled 70+ million euros in debt owed by Burma, Sudan, Egypt, Ecuador, Sierra Leone, Jamaica and Peru.

Money Matters USA

❖ The Pew Research Center has just issued results of a poll which show that 58% of Americans don’t think the “rich pay enough in taxes” and only 26% think the “rich pay their fair share. . ..” 52% of respondents who consider themselves “upper class” or “upper middle class” agreed that they don’t pay enough.

Why are US mass transit projects so expensive? $5 billion for 2 miles of NY’s Second Avenue subway; $3.8 billion for one subway station at the World Trade Center, etc. “A huge part of the problem is that agencies can’t keep their private contractors in check.” Other factors are expensive architecture which does not enhance public transit, heavy emphasis on judicial review, and bias toward contractors.

❖ A study compares “the impact presidents [over the past 80 years] have on growth, personal wealth, the stock market and even 401ks.” Going back to Herbert Hoover, all but one of the “five best economic presidents” were Democrats. Democrats’ greatest problem is promoting the message that Democratic presidents generate positive economic outcomes.

MN’s Hennepin County Attorney “has filed a federal lawsuit [on behalf of all 87 MN counties] against mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, claiming the companies illegally failed to pay required taxes on home sales. . .. ” At issue are unpaid deed transfer tax payments, estimated to be at least $10 million.

❖ “Apple Inc will seek a preliminary ban on U.S. sales of eight Samsung mobile products, pending a final injunction in its high stakes patents case . . ..”

❖ “Texas Manufacturing Growth Slows but Six-Month Expectations Improve”

Politics USA

❖ A Latino Decisions/ImpreMedia poll shows that 65% of Latino voters prefer Obama (26% prefer Romney).

❖ Guess who’s a role model for Romney’s dream cabinet? Meg Whitman. Yes, the unsuccessful candidate for CA governor last go-round, and current CEO of Hewlett-Packard, under whose leadership the company has “posted a record . . . quarterly loss [$8.86 billion] and reported slumping sales [and who] is cutting 27,000 jobs over two years.” Yikes!

❖ Although NJ Republican Gov Chris Christie will be the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention, Paul Krugman doubts he’ll use the phrase “Jersey comeback” since NJ has the 4th highest unemployment rate in the US. Christie, like the expected Republican Veep candidate, Paul Ryan, has as his aim “large breaks to the wealthy.”

❖ Former FL Gov Charlie Crist (I) will be a speaker at the Democratic National Convention.

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

❖ “So far this year, more than 11,000 unaccompanied minors [who crossed the US-Mexican border alone] have been placed in deportation proceedings, nearly double last year’s numbers.” Many are Mexican, but increasingly they are coming from Central America. The Women’s Refugee Commission interviewed about 150 of the children in TX and reported, “Most said they were seeking to escape increasingly violent gangs and drug traffickers at home, who were recruiting children aggressively.” Heart wrenching!

❖ A new report contains disturbing statistics about US children: “Half . . . get no early childhood education”; over 1/4 “have a chronic health condition, such as obesity or asthma [which threatens] their capacity to learn”; 22% live in poverty, “up from about 17 percent in 2007″; over half of “postsecondary students drop out without receiving a degree.” Comparisons of US policies and programs for children to those of India and China are stunning.

❖ Trying to adapt to flat-rate payments for care, rather than traditional reimbursement for each service provided, hospitals and health systems are looking at becoming insurers, too. Some argue that emphasis will shift from generating revenues by providing care to realizing savings through preventive services. But there are risks involved, as this study from Kaiser discusses.

❖ According to a recent study, “older men pass on more new mutations to their offspring than do younger men”, possibly leading to increased cases of autism and schizophrenia.

Heads Up!

“Romneyville”, an encampment on a rented lot of “homeless people, leftist activists and protestors” near Tampa’s downtown area, was organized by the People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign and intends to bring poverty to the attention of both Republican and Democratic conventions.

Planet Earth News

❖ According to “leading water scientists”: by 2050, humans will have had to switch to an almost completely vegetarian diet “to avoid catastrophic shortages.” This situation is worrying the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, too, which has urged “top farm producers in the Group of 20 countries . . . [to agree to] coordinated action to ease worry about food prices.”

❖ “Greenpeace activists in an inflatable speedboat said Monday they had attached themselves to the anchor of a Russian ship taking workers to the country’s first Arctic oil production base. . . . [this is the] second raid against the Gazprom rig in three days . . ..”

Latin America

Norway is hosting a meeting between Colombian government and FARC guerrilla representatives on October 5th, in an effort to end the 48-year conflict that has cost so many lives.

39 people were killed and more than 80 injured “in Venezuela’s deadliest refinery blast ever.” President Hugo Chavez has ordered an investigation.

Break Time

“The Invaders”

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