Radiation leaks hit a new deadly high at Fukushima, with the latest site outside the building housing stricken Reactor Four hot enough to kill after a 20-minute exposure.
Lots to cover, so straight ahead we roll. . .
We open with a statement of the obvious via Al Jazeera America:
World Bank president: Universal health coverage key for economic growth
Jim Yong Kim calls open-access health care ‘one of the best things’ to spur immediate, long-term economic growth
From the Japan Times, pressing hard for another one of those accords decried by Pope Francis:
TPP crunchtime talks may find deal elusive
As the proposed deadline for sealing a deal by year’s end looms, ministers from 12 countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks are tasked with making tough political decisions as they meet in Singapore from Saturday, with hard negotiations on outstanding issues lying ahead.
The four-day meeting is expected to be the last opportunity for Japan, the United States and 10 other countries bordering the Pacific Ocean to try to realize the ambitious economic initiative — encompassing roughly one-third of all world trade — on schedule.
Techdirt notes an anomaly:
European Commission Desperately Tries To Justify Inclusion Of Corporate Sovereignty In TAFTA/TTIP; Fails Dismally
from the is-that-really-the-best-you’ve-got? dept
And from the Economic Times, a done deal:
WTO reaches its first ever trade deal at Bali meeting
The World Trade Organization reached its first ever trade reform deal on Saturday to the roar of approval from nearly 160 ministers who had gathered on the Indonesian island of Bali to decide on the make-or-break agreement that could add $1 trillion to the global economy.
The approval came after Cuba dropped a last-gasp threat to veto the package of measures.
On to the U.S., and widely hailed numbers from the Los Angeles Times:
Economy adds 203,000 jobs in November; unemployment rate drops to 7%
The U.S. economy added a surprisingly strong 203,000 net new jobs last month and the unemployment rate fell to 7%, the lowest level in five years, the Labor Department said Friday.
The November figure, which beat analyst expectations of about 180,000 new jobs, along with slight revisions to the previous two months’ figures mean the economy has added an average of 204,000 jobs over the past four months.
CNBC catches one skeleton in the numeric closet:
Yes, more jobs, but wage growth holds up recovery
The job market may be gradually improving, but the gains aren’t showing up in worker’s paychecks.
And the resulting belt-tightening continues to weigh on an economy heavily dependent on consumer spending.
From The Guardian, the looters prepare:
State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax
- State Policy Network co-ordinating plans across 34 US states
- Strategy to ‘release residents from government dependency’
- Revelations come amid growing scrutiny of tax-exempt charities
The strategy for the state-level organisations, which describe themselves as “free-market thinktanks”, includes proposals from six different states for cuts in public sector pensions, campaigns to reduce the wages of government workers and eliminate income taxes, school voucher schemes to counter public education, opposition to Medicaid, and a campaign against regional efforts to combat greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.
Asian Americans’ buying power is still on the rise
Asian American households outspend median US households by an average of 19 percent, and earn 28 percent more on average than the US median income, according to a consumer report released by Nielsen this week. As early adopters of new technologies, they also lead in high-speed Internet access, mobile connectivity, use of social media and in the number of internet pages viewed each month.
From Al Jazeera America, business as usual along the political divide:
Democrats press to extend emergency unemployment program
Congressional Republicans have indicated that they are willing to let the benefits expire on Dec. 28, which would immediately cut off aid to 1.3 million long-term unemployed Americans, according to the White House.
And from The Hill, what happened to that guy preaching about growing inequality in the U.S.?:
White House: Obama won’t insist on jobless aid in budget deal
The White House will not insist that an emerging budget deal include an extension of the unemployment benefits program set to expire at the end of the year, press secretary Jay Carney said on Friday.
Carney said that it would be “terrible to tell more than a million families across the country just a few days after Christmas that they’re out of benefits,” but that the White House was agnostic on how the extension happened.
But by all means, pay the folks in the military/industrial complex. From Bloomberg:
U.S. Bomber Planes at $81 Billion Seen 47% More Than Plan
The U.S. Air Force’s new long-range bomber may cost as much as $81 billion for the 100 planes planned, 47 percent more than the $55 billion sticker price the service has listed.
The Air Force based its estimate of $550 million per plane on the value of the dollar in 2010, and it represents only the production costs for an aircraft that won’t be deployed for at least 10 years. Including research and development, the bomber would cost as much as $810 million apiece in this year’s dollars, according to calculations by three defense analysts.
From Reuters, cui bono?:
Special Report: How Fed policy enriches private equity, if not workers
The Fed’s “real intention was capital investment would be stimulated, jobs would be created, incomes of the 99 percent would rise,” says Martin Fridson, a high-yield expert and chief executive of FridsonVision LLC, a financial research firm in New York. But, he adds, it’s “not clear how effective that has really been. It’s certainly clear that those who are wealthy enough to own a substantial amount of assets have been made even wealthier by the Fed policy.”
Across the Atlantic with New Europe and debt collectors unleashed:
Council agrees on cross-border recovery of debts
The European Commission welcomed the agreement by the EU Justice Ministers to adopt the proposal to help businesses and individuals on the cross-border recovery of debts.
On 6 December, the Commission said that the proposal on the cross-border recovery of debts will give creditors more certainty about recovering their debt, thereby increasing confidence in trading within the EU’s single market. The proposal is part of the Commission’s “justice for growth” agenda, which seeks to harness the potential of the EU’s common area of justice for trade and growth.
Britain next, with bad news for the working class from The Independent:
Britain’s poor ‘will die before they retire’ if pension reforms aren’t matched by health improvements
Stark disparity in healthy life expectancy ‘must be tackled’ for pension age to be raised fairly
Thousands of Britain’s poorest people “will be dead before they can retire” if sweeping pension reforms are not matched by urgent action on health inequalities between rich and poor, experts have said.
Plans to raise the basic state pension age to 70 for people currently in their twenties were laid out in the George Osborne’s Autumn Statement this week. But with male life expectancy at birth as low as 66 in some of the most deprived parts of the country, public health experts have warned that a “one size fits all” pension age risks condemning many to a life without retirement.
From the London Telegraph, a bubblin’ away:
House prices across the UK are rising at nearly ten times average earnings
Halifax reveals house price inflation running at 7.7pc as low interest rates and Government schemes trigger a £37-a-day jump over past year
Ireland next, with a warning from the Independent.ie:
Central Bank warns of recovery challenges despite positive developments
THE pace and effectiveness of dealing with the bad loans in the banks could hit domestic demand and stymie the ability of the economy to recover, the Central Bank has warned.
And it said the level of distress among small and medium borrowers is “particularly acute” endangering not only the profitability of the banking sector but has far reaching consequences for the viability of the businesses and jobs they generate.
On to Holland with grim news from DutchNews.nl:
Half of the unemployed over-55s don’t find another job
Many of the over-55s who lose their jobs are still without paid work once their unemployment benefits dry up, according to research by the state job centre organisation UWV.
The UWV looked at how many people had managed to find a job after the jobless benefits – which run for a maximum three years – had stopped, the Volkskrant said.
Almost 75% of the total jobless pool had found new employment, but youngsters are far more likely to succeed than older workers, the research showed.
Germany next, with the usual from Independent.ie:
Bundesbank raises growth outlook for Germany
GERMANY’S Bundesbank has hiked its growth projections for the country for this year and next year, highlighting the diverging fortunes of the Eurozone’s economies.
The bank said it expects the Eurozone’s biggest economy to grow 0.5pc this year and 1.7pc next year compared with June-forecasts of 0.3 pc and 1.5pc respectively.
France next, and a confused picture from ANSAmed:
Unemployment booms in France but 1 in 3 works off the books
10.5% jobless, highest rate in 15 years
The latest data released by statistics’ institute Insee showed unemployment registered a slight increase in the third quarter of this year to 10.5% – the highest level in 15 years though below record rates registered in 1994 and 1997 (10.8%). A first, positive sign was also recorded as far as youth unemployment is concerned as it remained stable at 24.5% in the same period. But the survey also found that illegal work has boomed from 13% to 33% in five years.
On to Spain, with banking news from El País:
Broader powers for central bank in the works
Draft law hikes fines against bankers who break the rules
In an effort to prevent another national financial catastrophe, the government is to pass legislation giving the Bank of Spain and the National Securities Commission (CNMV) broader powers to prevent bank failures and fight illegal market speculation, sources said Thursday.
A denial from EUobserver:
Merkel denies pressuring Spain on bailout
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has “no memory” of allegedly pressuring Spain on taking a bailout in 2011, her spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Friday (6 December).
Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Rodriguez Zapatero last week published a book called “The Dilemma” about his last years in office, recalling how Merkel, as well as the heads of the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approached him during 2010-2011 to ask his country to take a bailout.
And from TheLocal.es, failed hopes:
Bankruptcy epidemic slays Spain’s businesses
Washing machines, fish fingers and football teams: not even household names are safe from a Spanish bankruptcy epidemic ravaging big and small businesses alike.
The number of companies filing for bankruptcy in Spain rose from 1,147 in 2007, the year before Spain’s real estate bubble disastrously burst, to nearly 6,200 in 2009, according to the National Statistics Institute.
It topped 9,000 in 2012 and “I think that in 2013 we are going to get close to 10,000,” said Carlos Sancho, a lawyer and expert in financial management at IESE Business School.
New Europe takes us to Portugal and a protest:
Portugese teachers protest
Hundreds of teachers protested outside Portugal’s parliament building on Thursday against a new controversial exam for teachers imposed by the Portuguese government.
The protestors, all dressed in black, called for Education Minister Nuno Crato to step down while holding banners that read “You’ve failed.”
Italy next, and an exodus from TheLocal.it:
Over 100,000 people fled Italy in 2012
106,000 people left Italy in 2012 in search of work elsewhere, according to the latest figures from the Censis Institute.
In a report on Friday, Censis said the number of people leaving had jumped 115 percent since 2002, when 50,000 left the country.
ANSAmed covers another dressing down:
EC berates Italy on debt again after Letta clash
Rehn’s office says supplementary budget adjustment needed
The office of European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said Thursday that Italy must do more to reduce its massive public debt, returning to an issue that has caused considerable tension between the European Commission and Rome in recent weeks.
TheLocal.it covers putt-putts:
Italians reduce scooter rides in bid to save cash
Italy’s economic crisis has cut the spending power of 69 percent of households and forced a growing number of young people to leave the country, a study by the Censis institute released on Friday found.
“Around 69 percent of families indicated a reduction or aggravation of their spending power,” said the report, which surveyed 1,200 families across Italy.
The study said 53 percent of respondents said they had reduced car or scooter travel to save on fuel, 68 percent had cut down on cinema and entertainment and 45 percent now spend less on restaurants.
While ANSAmed has more grim numbers:
One in 4 Italian households ‘struggling to pay bills’
Country ‘profoundly weakened’ by economic crisis
The study said “much of the country” was in a situation of “fragility”, with economic uncertainty causing “worry and unease” in many families, as Italy struggles to emerge from its longest recession in over two decades. It added that falling consumer spending was a symptom of a country that was “under stress”, “lost” and “profoundly weakened” by the economic crisis that started five years ago.
After the jump, Greek meltdown intensifies, Ukrainian conflict, an Indian WTO win, more Chinese neoliberal moves, Japanese Reaganomics, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading