We begin in the U.S., first with a corporate fail quickly amended from the Los Angeles Times:
McDonald’s kills employee-resource website critical of fast food
McDonald’s has taken down its resource website for its employees — the one that advised that fast food was unhealthy — after realizing, the company says, that the site linked to “irrelevant or outdated” information.
The fast-food giant was a subject of ridicule and other unwanted attention this week after photos surfaced of infographics on the website, McResource Line. Under a section of the site titled “fast food tips,” a picture of a meal of fries, a burger and a soft drink were labeled “unhealthy choice,” while a picture of a submarine sandwich, salad and water was labeled “healthier choice.”
The infographics and posts were created by a third-party provider for the McDonald’s site.
U.S. jobless claims fall, holiday retail sales rise
The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level in nearly a month, a hopeful sign for the labor market, while holiday retail sales rose in November and December.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits decreased 42,000 to a seasonally adjusted 338,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
Los Angeles Times covers a corporate giveaway:
Hollywood’s new financiers make deals with state tax credits
Brokers take the credits given to studios for location filming and sell them to wealthy people and companies looking to shave their state tax bills.
About $1.5 billion in film-related tax breaks, rebates and grants were paid out or approved by nearly 40 states last year, according to Times research. That’s up from $2 million a decade ago, when just five states offered incentives, according to the nonprofit Tax Foundation.
Film tax credits have become so integral to the filmmaking process that they often determine not only where but if a movie gets made. Studios factor them into film budgets, and producers use the promise of credits to secure bank loans or private investment capital to hire crews and build sets.
New mortgage rules may favor wealthiest borrowers
New mortgage rules that go into effect Jan. 10 are designed to protect borrowers and lenders from the ills of the last housing crash. If lenders apply the rules, they are protected from legal recourse by borrowers or investors should the loans go bad.
The rules, however, are not mandatory, and some lenders say they will make loans outside of them, especially in the jumbo and adjustable-rate spaces.
The Hill backs down:
Regulators agree to revisit ‘Volcker Rule’
Financial regulators are considering a fresh exemption to the “Volcker Rule” just weeks after they finalized the long-awaited crackdown on risky trading.
Facing a legal challenge from banks, the Federal Reserve and other Wall Street watchdogs on Friday said they were reviewing whether it would be appropriate to exempt a small subset of securities from the rule. A final decision will be announced by Jan. 15.
Industry groups have threatened to sue the government if the exemption is not granted.
The Independent has a Randian wet dream:
Super-yacht not big enough? ‘Seasteads’ offer libertarians the vision of floating cities for the future
For (very) wealthy libertarians, seasteads – floating cities – might be the way forward, with their ambition of ‘guaranteeing political freedom and enabling experimentation with alternative social systems’
Available soon, for sale or rent: brand new island with sea views from the terrace, fresh fish daily and swimming pool in the resort hotel. An ideal base for 225 pioneers with £100m-plus to spare and a yearning for a new political and social system.
And if you don’t like it, no problem. Hitch the house to the back of a tug boat and try somewhere else.
For the right-wing American libertarian with deep-seated problems with Big Government, the 19th century challenge to “Go West, young man” retains a powerful appeal. But for the current target audience – the free-wheeling capitalist dotcom millionaire in Silicon Valley – going west means getting wet.
The London Daily Mail calls up an austerian posse in Oregon:
Residents form ‘vigilante groups’ after cuts to sheriff department’s budget mean police only respond to life-threatening incidents
- 12-strong ‘response team’ armed with guns will operate around the clock
- Follows government cuts, and residents refusing tax hike, forcing state-funded departments to scale back operations
- Josephine County police dept has had to release prisoners and cut hours
POLITICO exposes a farce:
‘Small typo’ casts big doubt on teacher evaluations
A single missing suffix among thousands of lines of programming code led a public school teacher in Washington, D.C., to be erroneously fired for incompetence, three teachers to miss out on $15,000 bonuses and 40 others to receive inaccurate job evaluations.
The miscalculation has raised alarms about the increasing reliance nationwide on complex “value-added” formulas that use student test scores to attempt to quantify precisely how much value teachers have added to their students’ academic performance. Those value-added metrics often carry high stakes: Teachers’ employment, pay and even their professional licenses can depend on them.
The Nation covers another Obama corporate surrender:
Ted Mitchell, Education Dept. Nominee, Has Strong Ties to Pearson, Privatization Movement
As head of the NewSchools Venture Fund, Mitchell oversees investments in education technology start-ups. In July, Zynga, the creators of FarmVille, provided $1 million to Mitchell’s group to boost education gaming companies. Mitchell’s NewSchool Venture Fund also reportedly partners with Pearson, the education mega-corporation that owns a number of testing and textbook companies, along with one prominent for-profit virtual charter school, Connections Academy.
Jeff Bryant, a senior fellow with the Campaign for America’s Future, says it seems likely that Mitichell will “advocate for more federal promotion of online learning, ‘blended’ models of instruction, ‘adaptive learning’ systems, and public-private partnerships involving education technology.”
From the Atlantic Monthly, doctorates on aisle 4:
‘We Are Creating Walmarts of Higher Education’
As colleges feel pressure to graduate more students for less money, professors worry that the value of an education may be diminished.
Universities in South Dakota, Nebraska, and other states have cut the number of credits students need to graduate. A proposal in Florida would let online courses forgo the usual higher-education accreditation process. A California legislator introduced a measure that would have substituted online courses for some of the brick-and-mortar kind at public universities.
Some campuses of the University of North Carolina system are mulling getting rid of history, political science, and various others of more than 20 “low productive” programs. The University of Southern Maine may drop physics. And governors in Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin have questioned whether taxpayers should continue subsidizing public universities for teaching the humanities.
Salon delivers a smackdown:
Paul Ryan lectures the pope
The Catholic conservative who insists he cares about the poor says Pope Francis doesn’t understand capitalism
“The guy is from Argentina, they haven’t had real capitalism in Argentina,” Ryan said (referring to the pope as “the guy” is a nice folksy touch.) “They have crony capitalism in Argentina. They don’t have a true free enterprise system.”
Young users see Facebook as ‘dead and buried’
A study of how older teenagers in eight countries use social media has found that Facebook is “not just on the slide, it is basically dead and buried”.
Professor Daniel Miller of University College London, one of the researchers working on the project, said in a blog post: “Mostly they feel embarrassed even to be associated with it.
“This year marked the start of what looks likely to be a sustained decline of what had been the most pervasive of all social networking sites. Young people are turning away in their droves and adopting other social networks instead, while the worst people of all, their parents, continue to use the service.
Off to Britain with BBC News booming:
UK could be Europe’s ‘largest’ economy by 2030
The UK will be in a position to overtake Germany as Europe’s largest economy, according to the think tank the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR).
The CEBR predicts that Germany will lose its current top spot in Europe by 2030.
It cites the UK’s population growth as an aid to economic acceleration.
The Guardian admonishes:
Rising household debt is cause for alarm, warns thinktank IPPR
IPPR warns Help to Buy scheme risks pumping up housing market bubble and puts recent recovery at risk
George Osborne has been warned that his policies to boost the economy will lead to ballooning household debt.
The Institute for Public Policy and Research (IPPR), the left-of-centre thinktank, said the chancellor’s attempts to increase business lending had been a failure and that by resorting to policies such as Help to Buy in the housing market he risked undermining the recent recovery.
Intolerance from The Independent:
Islamophobia: Surge revealed in anti-Muslim hate crimes
Many forces reported a particular rise in anti-Islam hate crimes following the murder of soldier Lee Rigby
Islamophobic hate crimes across Britain have risen dramatically this year, new figures have revealed.
Hundreds of offences were perpetrated against the country’s Muslim population in 2013, with the Metropolitan police alone – Britain’s largest force – recording 500 Islamophobic crimes, compared with 336 incidents in 2012 and 318 in 2011.
From The Guardian, unsurprising:
Fury with MPs is main reason for not voting — poll
Poll reveals anger, not boredom, lies behind drop in political engagement
Nearly half of Britons say they are angry with politics and politicians, according to a Guardian/ICM poll analysing the disconnect between British people and their democracy.
The research, which explores the reasons behind the precipitous drop in voter turnout – particularly among under-30s – finds that it is anger with the political class and broken promises made by high-profile figures that most rile voters, rather than boredom with Westminster.
Sweden next with TheLocal.se and profits from poverty:
Financier fears ‘populist welfare profit debate’
A high-profile financier has withdrawn his support from the Social Democrats, stating that both the opposition and the government risk populist pandering with moves to curtail profits in the welfare sector.
Swedish businessman Carl Bennet, who owns shares in companies that employ over 17,000 people, said on Friday he would no longer voice his support for the socialist opposition due to its critique against venture capital firms making a profit in the tax-funded welfare sector.
“Populism is concealing something that fundamentally is good for the Swedish people,” Bennet told the business daily Dagens Industri (DI).
Germany next, with that good old money via The Local.de:
Germans still have €7 billion worth of D-Marks
Germany’s central bank believes nearly €7 billion-worth of the country’s old currency is still floating around, 12 years after the switch to the euro.
The Bundesbank’s last check in November revealed that there were around 170 million Deutsch Mark (D-Mark) notes unaccounted for, and 24 billion coins. This would make 13.05 billion D-Marks, or €6.67 billion.
But the Bundesbank said this was not a problem, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Friday. “A huge amount of D-Marks have been handed over anyway,” it said in a statement.
France next and a fail from The Independent:
François Hollande heading for crisis as he fails to deliver his promise to reduce unemployment
President François Hollande suffered a blow tonight to what remains of his credibility with news that he had failed to deliver his promise to reduce unemployment by the end of this year.
Anxiously awaited jobless figures for November showed that the number of people without employment in France had increased by 17,500, almost wiping out a modest a reduction in French dole queues in October.
More from the London Telegraph:
François Hollande ‘in denial’ over France’s unemployment
François Hollande accused of cooking unemployment statistics after he insists he is still on track for reversing the jobless trend by year’s end despite figures suggesting the reverse
François Hollande’s credibility is lying in tatters after figures indicated he had failed to deliver on a central government promise to “turn the tide” on unemployment by year’s end.
Riding lower in the polls than any of his postwar predecessors, the Socialist leader chose to defy predictions by the IMF, the European Commission and the vast majority of private economists to bank on a turnaround in French unemployment by the end of 2013.
The Guardian crashes, doesn’t burn:
Elysée palace protester against arts cuts used car as weapon, say French police
Director angered by his theatre’s subsidy loss tried to crash through presidential palace gates
The director of a Paris theatre was arrested on Thursday after trying to force his way into the Elysée presidential palace by crashing his car against its gates.
A security cordon was thrown around the building after police took 67-year-old Italian Attilio Maggiulli into custody on charges of damaging a public utility, endangering lives and violence against a public servant with an weapon, his car.
The suspect wanted to bring to President François Hollande’s attention the cuts in public subsidies to his theatre, the Comédie Italienne, police said. He was reported to have sprayed his car with white spirit and “lightly tapped” the gates “at a slow speed” at around 10am.
On to Spain with El País and a chill:
Cabinet to approve minimum wage freeze, say unions
CCOO and UGT argue that workers’ purchasing power has not stopped falling since 2007
The Cabinet is expected today to approve a freeze on the minimum wage for next year, unions said Thursday.
This would mean that salaries will remain at a minimum of 645.30 euros per month in 14 payments. In other words, workers who put in a full day’s work in Spain will earn at least 9,034.20 euros annually.
The CCOO and UGT unions made the government’s proposed freeze public in joint statements in which they rejected the government’s plan.
Train fares and electricity rise at 10 times the level of inflation
TRAIN fares on regional lines will go up by 1.9 per cent on January 1, the same day that electricity will rise in price by 2.3 per cent, the PP government has announced.
Both are way above inflation – which is 0.2 per cent in the last year – but lower than the train fare increase of January 1, 2013 when these rose by three per cent.
Medium-distance and provincial lines, known as Cercanías, are considered ‘public services’, which means their prices are State-controlled.
El País dissents:
Dissenting voices against abortion reform grow within Popular Party
Central government delegate in Madrid and Basque assembly spokesman speak out against restrictive bill
Socialists vow to take opposition to the measure onto European stage
The central government delegate in Madrid, Cristina Cifuentes, has expressed her personal opposition to the government’s draft abortion reform. Although Popular Party (PP) official Cifuentes, who recently returned to the public eye after sustaining serious injuries in a motorcycle accident, recognized that the legislation was an electoral promise that had to be carried through, she said that she preferred the previous system of time periods to the government’s proposal to return to a system of scenarios.
Under 2010 legislation introduced by the previous Socialist government, a woman could freely terminate a pregnancy up to 14 weeks. The new draft law, passed by the Cabinet this month ahead of debate on the floor of Congress, allows for abortion in only two instances: rape, and the risk of serious psychological or physical harm to the mother.
Off to Lisbon with the Portugal News:
Portuguese among Europe’s most pessimistic
Portuguese citizens are among the most pessimistic in Europe when it comes to the economic outlook and only outstripped in their negativity by the Cypriots and Greeks according to a recent Eurobarometer study.
A total of 64 percent of Portuguese citizens declared they were pessimistic about the future of the European economy with only citizens in Cyprus and Greece, 66 percent and 69 percent respectively, returning more negative outlooks as against a European Union average in which 51 percent managed to express optimism.
Of the 1,047 Portuguese citizens who responded, 77 percent identified unemployment as a cause for concern, against a European Union average of 49 percent while the economic situation concerned 39 percent of respondents against an average 33 percent.
Interview: IMF official warns next year not to be cakewalk for Portugal
Portugal seems to be ending 2013 on a good note. Earlier this month the Portuguese central bank improved its 2013 and 2014 economic outlook and on Friday the national institute of statistics (INE) unveiled that Portugal might have reached the target it agreed with its international creditors commission for this year.
However, Portugal’s implementation of the bailout program with the troika of the European Union, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank next year “won’t be a cakewalk”, IMF Resident Representative in Lisbon Albert Jaeger told Xinhua in a recent interview.
“The economy is still at the early stages of recovery following a pretty long slump in activity,”he said,”so big challenges are still to be tackled.”
The Portugal News walks out:
Chaos looms as strikes are promised to continue into the New Year
This year’s New Year celebrations could be spoiled for many should a series of strikes announced for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day by airlines, airport ground-staff, public transport companies and even hotel workers go ahead as planned, causing widespread travel disruption and general frustration and disappointment from north to south of the country.
The Portugal News with another walkout:
Tax offices shut down
Tax and customs offices around Portugal were closed for much of the past week as workers protested against planned cuts to the service and worsening prospects for public employees’ pay and conditions.
Off to Italy and a necessary move from The Local.it:
Italy transfers migrants from scandal-hit centre
Italy on Tuesday transferred migrants from a centre on the tiny island of Lampedusa at the heart of a controversy over unsanitary conditions and mistreatment, as protests continued in other facilities.
Nine migrants at an expulsion centre near Rome’s airport have also sewn their mouths shut and a total of 37 are on hunger strike, said the director of the centre, Vincenzo Lutrelli, Italian media reported.
“I hope that this being Christmas Eve there will be an end to the protest,” said Lutrelli, who has supported the initiative to draw attention to the long months in which migrants are held in prison-like condition
Migrants end sewn mouths protest in Italy
A dozen migrants who had sewn their mouths shut in an immigrant detention centre outside Rome ended their protest on Friday, officials at the facility and a visiting parliamentary delegation said.
The last of the migrants taking part allowed medical personnel to remove the thread he had used to stitch his lips and the migrants also ended a hunger strike.
South Italy has lost ‘600,000 jobs in 6 years’
South GDP eroded of 43.7 billion euros during crisis
Southern Italy has lost 600,000 jobs over the past six years and the economic crisis has wiped out some 43.7 billion euros of area’s gross domestic product, according to data released by industrial employers’ association Confindustria Friday.
And TheLocal.it ponies up:
Italy pledges €800m to fight poverty in 2014
Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta said on Friday that the coalition government will spend €800 million on fighting poverty next year as more Italians struggle to make ends meet.
A report by Eurostat in early December revealed that 29.9 percent of Italians were suffering, or risked suffering, poverty in 2012, a figure surpassed in the Eurozone only by Greece.
Letta said on Friday that the government had raised an extra €300 million in addition to the €500 million already allocated to fight poverty.
After the jump, Greek crisis, Russian woes, Indonesian anxiety, Chinese transformations continue, environmental threats, and the latest edition of Fukushimapocalypse Now! Continue reading