Headlines: Class, wealth, pols, and ploys


We begin today’s collection of stories of economic, politics, resources, and the environment with a stark contrast from Bloomberg:

Miami’s Poor Live on $11 a Day as Boom Widens Wealth Gap

“Miami isn’t the gateway to Latin America; Miami has the same economic demographics as Latin America,” said Pedro “Joe” Greer, a doctor whose 25 years of work treating the homeless and uninsured there earned him the nation’s highest civilian honor — the Presidential Medal of Freedom — in 2009. “Seventy percent of the families we work with bring in less than $25,000 a year.”

Miami’s Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, is the third-highest among U.S. cities after Atlanta and New Orleans. It’s higher than in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro and mirrors Mexico City’s level. The city is also the toughest for low-wage workers to rise, according to a Bloomberg analysis of the upward mobility of fast-food employees. . .

Miami ranked No. 7 — above Dubai, Paris and Beijing — among “cities that matter” to high-net-worth investors, the 2014 Wealth Report by London-based consulting firm Knight Frank LLP shows. International buyers have purchased more than $10 billion of South Florida property since 2008, the Chicago-based National Association of Realtors says.

From Raw Story, a class clown:

PayPal exec drunkenly tweets late night insults at co-workers and resigns

A recently hired executive at the Internet banking company PayPal spent Friday night tweeting insults at his co-workers and announcing his resignation from the company. Business Insider reported that Rakesh “Rocky” Agrawal was attending Jazz Fest in New Orleans when he sent the now-deleted stream of poorly-spelled, vitriolic messages.

Agrawal posted a photo of himself with his middle finger raised with the caption, “Can’t wait to explain this.”

Around 1:00 a.m., Agrawal wrote, “Duck you Smedley you useless middle. manager,” which was followed by “Christina Smedley is a useless. Piece of shit.”

From Salon, a Silicon Volley:

The Internet’s inequality bomb: The crash is coming — but the 1 percent won’t feel a thing

  • Warnings of a tech bubble are growing more dire every day, but it’s regular people who stand to bear the brunt

Companies are frantically loading up on cash now, because they know– everybody knows — that the business cycle will inevitably turn down. With the vast majority of these start-ups a long, long way from turning a profit, it’s only prudent to stash away as much cash as you can while the getting is still good. Because, like it or not, sooner or later, the bubble will pop.

But if times are destined to get tough for even the current front-runners of the tech boom, then what does that mean for the rest of us? Because there’s a crucial difference between this boom and the last one that is not getting enough attention. Last time around, the average U.S. worker did pretty well: In the 1990s, the median wage rose steadily, while unemployment fell to its lowest point in generations. The economy as a whole added an incredible 21 million jobs. Point being: The prosperity was shared.

Compare that to the current tech boom. Wages have stagnated, and household income has fallen. Unemployment is still historically high and job growth has been tepid, at best. Even as all those billions of dollars of investor capital have poured into tech companies, workers — outside of a few regional hot spots like northern California — just aren’t reaping the kinds of benefits we would hope for in even a borderline healthy economy.

Europe next, starting with the Reykjavík Grapevine and the latest on a noxious memo from the office Icelandic Minister of the Interior Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir:

Leaked Memo Solely “To Impugn Reputation” Of Asylum Seeker

Reykjavík District Court has concluded, amongst other things, that the sole purpose for leaking the now-infamous memo on Nigerian asylum seeker Tony Omos was “to impugn his reputation” in the face of growing public protest over his treatment by the Ministry of the Interior.

RÚV reports that police authorities filed a motion with both the Reykjavík District Court and the Supreme Court, demanding that the news editor of mbl.is tell the police who wrote the original news story about Tony Omos, as well as whether and how they had access to the informal memo on Omos. Both courts denied the police’s request, saying that they had not significantly demonstrated that they had explored all investigative avenues before demanding journalists reveal their sources.

In the District Court’s opinion, however, they believe the memo was put together for the sole purpose of “impugning the reputation” of Omos, as public protest against his impending deportation was growing. The accusations made against Omos in the memo would later prove to be false and misleading.

ANSAmed takes us to Portugal and passing marks from the troikarchs:

Portugal passes latest troika test

  • 2014 growth to be at 1% of GDP, says deputy PM

he Portuguese government announced on Friday that the so-called troika of international creditors (ECB,EU, and IMF) had approved the efforts undertaken by the country to comply with the aid program agreed three years ago in exchange for a 76-billion-euro loan.

‘’The twelfth assessment was positive,’‘ Deputy Prime Minister Paulo Portas said in a press conference, underscoring the ‘’climate of confidence coming from all European markets.’‘ Portas added that the international creditors had urged the government to push forward with reforms that the opposition, unions and most citizens – including military and police associations – are against.

The deputy prime minister underscored that at the June 2011 swearing in of Pedro Passos Coelho’s conservative government, interest rates on ten-year government bonds had stood at 10.6%, whereas they have now dropped to 3.6%.

thinkSPAIN covers Labor Day outrage:

Protests in Barcelona and the Basque Country end in arson attacks and vandalism on high-street banks and wheelie-bins

DEMONSTRATIONS in Barcelona and the Basque Country turned violent after May Day with numerous arrests for setting fire to bins and vandalising branches of banks.

Financial entities in three provinces in the Basque Country suffered graffiti, broken windows due to stones thrown at them and in one case, flammable liquid thrown at it.

An 18-year-old man was arrested in San Sebastián yesterday (Friday) in the early hours of the morning throwing tins of paint at the shop fronts of four banks.

From the Guardian, another kind of battle centeerd around Franco family values:

Students at Spanish college fight ban on men using washing machines

  • Madrid residence threatens to expel male students who do their own laundry – they are told to find female friends to do it instead

Despite repeated calls for more than three years for a change in the rules, the code of conduct at the Duque de Ahumada de la Guardia Civil residence continues to specify that “use of the washing machines by male residents will result in expulsion, ranging from 15 days to three months, from the residence”.

Male students at the dorm, which caters for the children and grandchildren of Guardia Civil officers, are instead instructed to quietly pass their clothes to female friends to be washed.

The association that represents Guardia Civil officers is demanding that the rule be changed. “What is being asked of residents is obsolete, unjust, sexist and borderline ridiculous,” Francisco Cecilia, of the Unified Guardia Civil Association told El Mundo. “In today’s world, it makes no sense that male residents would have to secretly pass their clothes to a female or visit a laundromat to do their laundry.”

Kathimerini English takes us to Greek and pitch preparations:

Greece gears up for debt talks

Stournaras to put forward suggestions on how to reduce annual repayments at Monday’s Eurogroup

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras is due to ask his eurozone counterparts Monday to begin considering further debt relief for Greece, with the government already having drafted a number of options to reduce the repayments the country faces in the years to come.

Having achieved a primary surplus of 1.5 billion euros in 2013, Greece will demand that the Eurogroup lives up to its November 2012 commitment to examine other ways of reducing the country’s giant debt burden of roughly 175 percent of gross domestic product. It is highly unlikely, though, that Stournaras will get an immediate answer. The matter will probably be referred to the Euro Working Group, with the technical team that advises eurozone finance ministers being asked to come up with proposals on how to reduce Greece’s debt.

“Discussions will begin but there are a number of preconditions to be met, not just the primary surplus,” a high-ranking European Union official told Kathimerini. “That is why the negotiations will take place when the next [troika] review [of the Greek adjustment program] has been completed.”

But MacroPolis casts doubt on any rosy scenarios:

Greek Parliament’s budget office questions primary surplus sustainability

In its latest quarterly report released on Friday, the Greek Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) argues that despite significant achievements in 2014, the Greek economy still has a long way to go to overcome the obstacles in its path.

The PBO notes the ratification of Greece’s primary surplus in 2013, the government’s agreement with the troika and the 5-year bond issue but expresses scepticism about whether the country can meet its targets in the next few years.

Commenting on the Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy (MTFS) for 2015 – 2018, which was submitted to Parliament this week, the PBO stresses that the government’s primary surplus targets are overly optimistic for 2016-18. According to the MTFS, the government aims for a primary surplus at 2.3 – 2.5 percent of GDP in 2014-15 increasing to 3.5 – 5.3 percent of GDP in the succeeding three years.

From Kathimerini English, a crucial test for the number three party:

Supreme Court to decide on Golden Dawn ahead of May vote

The so-called secret charter of Golden Dawn, which came to the surface during the ongoing probe into Greece’s ultranationalist party, and the potential inclusion of candidates facing criminal charges on the party’s ticket are expected to determine whether GD will get the green light from the Supreme Court to run in the upcoming European Parliament elections, Kathimerini understands.

Authorities have used the charter, which lays out the Nazi-type structure and fascist ideology of the party, as the basis for charges against several Golden Dawn MPs who are accused of setting up and participating in a criminal organization.

Sources told Kathimerini, GD is unlikely to nominate any of the MPs under probe. The party has already set up a surrogate organization, National Dawn, to take its place should it be banned from running in the vote.

Cyprus next, and good news for bank account holders from EUbusiness:

Bailed out Cyprus lifts last main capital controls

Cyprus abolished restrictions on cashing cheques Friday as it lifted the last main domestic capital controls imposed more than a year ago to avoid a run on banks during bailout negotiations.

“With the new 29th decree issued today by the minister of finance, all restrictions on domestic transactions are lifted… except the opening of a new bank account,” the finance ministry said.

The controls lifted on Friday were a ban on the cashing of cheques and limits on transactions and payments of 50,000 euros ($69,000) for individuals and 200,000 euros for companies.

After the jump, Uruguay goes to pot, Venezuelan forebodings, mixed signals from the Chinese economy, stalled TPP talks, environmental woes, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . .

Our first Latin American item comes from BBC News:

Uruguay marijuana legalisation: Details unveiled

The Uruguayan authorities have revealed how marijuana will be produced and sold legally in the country.

Licensed pharmacies will sell the drug for less than $1 a gramme, with consumers allowed 40g (1.4oz) a month. The bill specifies that each household may grow up to six cannabis plants, and that marijuana may be consumed in the same places as tobacco.

Last year, Uruguay became the first country in the world to make it legal to grow, sell and consume marijuana.

Here’s a video report from China’s CCTV America:

Home Grown Marijuana Business Goes Popular

Program notes:

People in Uruguay will soon be able buy up to 10 grams of marijuana a week, once new licensing laws kick in. Homegrown marijuana is a million dollar business that has been illegal up until now but the government could reap some of the benefits.

From the Associated Press, an American hand in Venezuelan unrest:

Venezuela: Alleged plan to provoke protests

Venezuela’s government said Friday that it has arrested 58 foreigners, including an American, on suspicion of inciting violent street protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres denounced what he called a plot to promote unrest aimed at overthrowing the government and said that among those detained was a man identified as Todd Michael Leininger, who he said had with him two pistols, two assault rifles, military uniforms and a U.S. passport.

“What was this man doing with those armaments at a guarimba (barricade) in San Cristobal,” said Rodriguez Torres about Leininger, 32. San Cristobal is a city in southwest Venezuela.

Off to Asia and an agreement across nations otherwise embroiled in the Game of Zones. From Nikkei Asian Review:

Asian nations agree to help make bond transactions easier

Thirteen Asian countries adopted a joint statement Saturday that in part calls for increased support measures to stimulate local currency bond transactions in the region.

The statement came at a meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors from Japan, China, South Korea and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“Economies with domestic structural weaknesses such as high inflation, large current account deficits and substantial fiscal imbalances tend to be vulnerable to tightening of financial conditions,” the statement reads.

China Daily takes us to Beijing for an uptick accompanied by a downtick:

China’s manufacturing picks up in April

China’s manufacturing growth experienced a small increase in April while new export orders fell sharply, data showed.

The purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for the country’s manufacturing sector rose to 50.4 in April, indicating a slight expansion, according to the data released on Thursday by the National Bureau of Statistics and the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing. Readings above 50 show expansion, while readings below 50 show contraction of the sector. The PMI was 50.3 in March. The index began to climb in March after a three-month decline.

The world’s second largest economy still faces heavy downward pressure despite the second-quarter growth showing signs of recovery, analysts said.

While Global Times covers a bubble starting to deflate:

Home prices in first-tier cities begin falling

Home prices in first-tier cities are finally showing signs of dropping, with some apartments currently being sold at price discounts, but experts said Saturday that even so it is unlikely for first-tier cities to see major price drops this year.

An apartment of around 90 square meters, worth around 3 million yuan ($479,400), could be sold at a discount of 100,000 yuan to 200,000 yuan in Beijing, according to Gao Yuan, a Beijing-based realtor at real estate agency Homelink.

Potential buyers are holding a wait-and-see attitude, which has greatly dented sales.

Next up, Japan, and the latest in a series of conflicting reports on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, this time a downbeat assessment from the Asahi Shimbun:

Japan denies reports of TPP agreement with U.S.

A senior government official flatly denied media reports that Japan and the United States had reached an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact.

“There has been some progress, but no agreement has been reached,” Kazuhisa Shibuya, councilor of the Cabinet Secretariat who is in charge of TPP negotiations, said at a news conference on May 2.

The Yomiuri Shimbun in its May 2 morning edition reported that Japan and the United States had settled their debate on tariffs on five categories of food items–rice, barley and wheat, dairy products, beef and pork, and sugar crops. The report said the agreement was reached a day before a joint statement released on April 25 to mark the summit in Tokyo between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama.

And it’s time for the latest round of stories from the ongoing saga that is Fukushimapocalypse Now!, starting with this from the Japan Times:

Japan to start providing food radiation check data to Taiwan

Japan will provide documentation on radiation checks for food products exported to Taiwan from next month, according to health authorities in Taipei.

While Japan has been providing such information to other countries since the start of the Fukushima crisis in March 2011, it has never supplied such documentation to Taiwan.

Following months of negotiations, Japan finally agreed to begin providing the documentation to Taiwan in June under a three-month trial program.

JapanToday looks for a nuclear handout:

Utilities seek gov’t support after posting losses

Japan’s nuclear-reliant utilities this week reported losses for the third straight year and warned of further electricity rate hikes to pay for surging fuel imports as they face an uncertain outlook for restarting idled reactors.

Six of Japan’s nine big regional power companies, all of which own reactors, reported a combined net loss of 33 billion yen as they face the rising fuel costs and also spend billions of yen to upgrade nuclear facilities to meet new regulatory standards.

All 48 of the nation’s reactors were steadily brought offline after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which triggered three reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

And from TheLocal.se, blowback from half the world away:

Swedish support for nuclear power wanes

A new survey has revealed that half of Swedes are no longer keen on pursuing nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima meltdown in Japan in 2011.

The study was carried out by the SOM Institute at the University of Gothenburg. Some 50 percent of those who participated said they wanted to phase out the power source.

When the same study was carried out in 2011, following the Fukushima disaster, 44 percent of respondents said they weren’t keen on nuclear power. By contrast, in the 2007 study just 31 percent of respondents said they wanted to phase it out.

From the Department of Other Fuels, Other problems, this from the Contributor:

Anti-Fracking CA Bill Posits: ‘Hey, Maybe We Should Study This Stuff Before It Goes in the Water Supply’

A bill imposing a moratorium on fracking and acidizing for oil extraction in California passed through the Senate Environmental Quality Committee today by a 5 to 2 vote.

Senators Mark Leno, Jerry Hill, Loni Hancock, Hannah-Beth Jackson and Fran Pavley voted for Senate Bill 1132, while Senators Ted Gaines and Jean Fuller voted against it.

Authored by Senators Holly Mitchell and Mark Leno, SB 1132 would require the Natural Resources Agency to facilitate an “independent scientific study” on well stimulation treatments (fracking and acidizing) and their hazards and risks to natural resources and public, occupational, and environmental health and safety by January 1, 2015.

The Charleston Gazette finds a grievous polluter hiding under a new name:


Freedom execs tied to new chemical company

Freedom Industries, the company whose chemical leak contaminated the tap water of 300,000 West Virginians, will cease to exist once it goes through bankruptcy, but that doesn’t mean its executives are out of the chemical business.

Lexycon LLC, a chemical company whose characteristics are strikingly similar to Freedom Industries, registered as a business with the West Virginia secretary of state about a month ago.

The companies share addresses and phone numbers, Lexycon was founded by a former Freedom executive and it has ties to at least two other current or former Freedom executives.

Somehow, we’ve reminded of this:

From BBC News, another threat facilitated by factory farming:

Concerns grow in Europe over threat from deadly pig virus

France is expected to suspend pig-related imports from a number of countries as worries grow over the spread of a deadly swine virus.

Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea Virus (PEDv) has killed some seven million piglets in the US in the past year.

The disease has also been found in Canada, Mexico and Japan.

While the virus isn’t harmful to humans or food, France is concerned over the potential economic impact and is set to suspend imports of live pigs and sperm.

And for ou final item, and just because, there’s this from Wired:

Absurd Creature of the Week: This Marsupial Has Marathon Sex Until It Goes Blind and Drops Dead

In the forests of Australia, every year just before spring, there erupts a sexual frenzy unlike any other on Earth. It’s bigger than an ultra-romantic Neil Diamond concert, bigger even than spring break in Cancun. Here a tiny hyperactive marsupial called antechinus sprints around mating almost non-stop for an exhausting three weeks, with single romps lasting as long as 14 straight hours.

Males relentlessly bound from partner to partner, as massive hormone releases in their bodies cause their immune systems to crash and their fur to fall out. They bleed internally. Some males even go blind, yet still stumble around the leaf litter hoping for one last tryst. In a few short weeks, every single male lies dead, leaving the females to raise their offspring. And so it seems that in perpetually dangerous Australia, even the sex can kill you.

For these three weeks of sexual kamikaze, antechinus males are concerned with nothing–absolutely nothing–other than mating with as many females as they possibly can. Ecologist Andrew Baker of Australia’s Queensland University of Technology, who studies these critters’ astonishing habits, has even picked up a copulating pair, who ignored him entirely and went about their business in his hands. “It’s pretty frenzied,” said Baker. “There’s no courtship or anything like that. The males basically just grab the females and go for it.”

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