Belated postuing today, thanks to a visit from grandbaby Sadie Rose and parents.
First up, form McClatchy Washington Bureau, consolidating the wealth:
Report: large employers could shift nearly all workers’ health coverage to marketplace by 2020
A new investor report predicts that Standard & Poor’s 500 companies could shift 90 percent of their workforce from job-based health coverage to individual insurance sold on the nation’s marketplaces by 2020.
If all U.S. companies with 50 or more employees followed suit, they could collectively save $3.25 trillion through 2025, according to the report by S&P Capital IQ, a division of McGraw Hill Financial.
Standard & Poor’s 500 companies could save $689 billion over the same period if they did likewise, the report found. Savings for S&P 500 companies could top $800 billion if health care inflation remains at the traditional 7.5 percent rate over the next decade, the report estimates.
From Wall Street On Parade, that’s classified:
Suspicious Deaths of Bankers Are Now Classified as “Trade Secrets” by Federal Regulator
It doesn’t get any more Orwellian than this: Wall Street mega banks crash the U.S. financial system in 2008. Hundreds of thousands of financial industry workers lose their jobs. Then, beginning late last year, a rash of suspicious deaths start to occur among current and former bank employees. Next we learn that four of the Wall Street mega banks likely hold over $680 billion face amount of life insurance on their workers, payable to the banks, not the families. We ask their Federal regulator for the details of this life insurance under a Freedom of Information Act request and we’re told the information constitutes “trade secrets.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the life expectancy of a 25 year old male with a Bachelor’s degree or higher as of 2006 was 81 years of age. But in the past five months, five highly educated JPMorgan male employees in their 30s and one former employee aged 28, have died under suspicious circumstances, including three of whom allegedly leaped off buildings – a statistical rarity even during the height of the financial crisis in 2008.
CNNMoney torpedoes the workforce:
Subway leads fast food industry in underpaying workers
McDonald’s gets a lot of bad press for its low pay. But there’s an even bigger offender when it comes to fast food companies underpaying their employees: Subway.
Individual Subway franchisees have been found in violation of pay and hour rules in more than 1,100 investigations spanning from 2000 to 2013, according to a CNNMoney analysis of data collected by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.
Each investigation can lead to multiple violations and fines. Combined, these cases found about 17,000 Fair Labor Standards Act violations and resulted in franchisees having to reimburse Subway workers more than $3.8 million over the years.
From CNBC, peonage and the classroom:
The other student debt crisis
Student debt is straining millions of students’ finances, and it is a hot-button topic on college campuses across the country. But if you look at who is really borrowing heavily, it’s the graduate students.
Graduate students made up less than 18 percent of all the students receiving federal loans in the academic year 2012-2013, but they received about 40 percent of the federal money, according to an analysis of Department of Education data. And a study released in March by the New America Foundation found that for the roughly 64 percent of graduate students who take out loans, the median debt for their undergraduate and graduate education was over $57,000 in 2012, up from just over $40,000 in 2004.
“The people who are borrowing are borrowing everything,” said Jason Delisle, director of the federal education budget project at the New America Foundation and the author of the recent study. “If you’re going to borrow for graduate school, it’s generally not people who are borrowing just to fill in the gaps.”
More woes for students, from the Christian Science Monitor:
State college tuition skyrocketed during recession, study finds
Strapped from the recession, states foisted more of the cost of public college tuition onto students. In 45 states, tuition rose more than 20 percent since 2008. The trend is only now starting to ease.
As state budgets bounce back from the Great Recession, most are starting to increase their funding of higher education, an area of spending where cuts went especially deep. But all but two states – Alaska and North Dakota – still spend less per student than they did before the recession.
With both college tuition and student loans skyrocketing in recent years, much attention has gone to those state funding levels – a major reason behind the spiraling cost of attending college, at least for public institutions. A new report from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a Washington think tank, quantifies just how much funding for public colleges and universities was cut in the past six years, and what the effects of those cuts have been.
“In many states the cuts have been extraordinarily deep,” said Michael Mitchell, an author of the report, in a call with reporters. “Over the last 25 years, nearly every state has shifted higher education costs from the state to students – this has been a trend for some time. But the recession, and the years following the recession, absolutely kicked this trend into high gear…. The cuts are in part a result of state revenue collapse, but they were also a product of poor policy choices, with states relying on spending cuts to make up for lost revenue.”
From Newswise, twice victimized:
Unemployment Common After Breast Cancer Treatment
- Women who had chemotherapy less likely to be employed 4 years later
Nearly one-third of breast cancer survivors who were working when they began treatment were unemployed four years later. Women who received chemotherapy were most affected, according to a new study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Researchers surveyed woman in Detroit and Los Angeles who had been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. They narrowed their sample to the 746 women who reported working at the time they were diagnosed. Participants were surveyed about nine months after diagnosis, and then given a follow-up survey about four years later.
Overall, 30 percent of these working women said they were no longer working at the time of the four-year follow-up survey. Women who received chemotherapy were more likely to report that they were not working four years later.
Many of these women reported that they want to work: 55 percent of those not working said it was important for them to work and 39 percent said they were actively looking for work. Those who were not working were significantly more likely to report they were worse off financially. Results of the study appear in the journal Cancer.
Obama whines, via Techdirt:
Obama Complains That TPP Critics Are ‘Conspiracy Theorists’ Who ‘Lack Knowledge’ About Negotiations
from the well,-that-would-appear-to-be-your-own-fault dept
It’s become fairly clear that the TPP agreement is in trouble these days (for a variety of reasons). And it appears that President Obama is losing his cool concerning the agreement and its critics. In a press conference with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, President Obama lashed out at TPP critics, calling them “conspiracy theorists” whose criticism “reflects lack of knowledge of what is going on in the negotiations.” Oh really?
If you take an issue like drugs, for example, the United States does extraordinary work in research and development, and providing medical breakthroughs that save a lot of lives around the world. Those companies that make those investments in that research oftentimes want a return, and so there are all kinds of issues around intellectual property and patents, and so forth.
At the same time, I think we would all agree that if there’s a medicine that can save a lot of lives, then we’ve got to find a way to make sure that it’s available to folks who simply can’t afford it as part of our common humanity. And both those values are reflected in the conversations and negotiations that are taking place around TPP. So the assumption somehow that right off the bat that’s not something we’re paying attention to, that reflects lack of knowledge of what is going on in the negotiations.
More on the TPP from the Japan Daily Press:
TPP deal talks in the ‘last stretch’ says Japanese official
A week after U.S. President Barack Obama left Japan after a three-day state visit that saw no conclusion to bilateral negotiations crucial to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal, a high-ranking official from Japan said that significant progress has been made but further efforts are needed to finalize an agreement.
Speaking to reporters via a translator in New York, Senior Vice Minister of the Cabinet Office Yasutoshi Nishimura said that the two countries are in the “last stretch” of their negotiations. He admitted that while there “was some progress” last week, “there still remains a gap and we have to make efforts to come to a compromise.” He added that the final stages of talks will be difficult as it seemed that neither side wants to budge on some of their considerations, particularly in agriculture for Japan and automobiles for the US. Finalizing a TPP deal is essential in the growth strategy of the so-called “Abenomics,” a series of economic policies introduced by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to increase consumer spending and ease monetary policies. This strategy was proposed by no other than Nishimura to the prime minister.
And from TMZ, the first of two porno posts:
Samuel L. Jackson
Stop Promoting Free Porn …Say Angry XXX Actors
Samuel L. Jackson likes his porn … but he wants it for FREE … and that’s pissing off some XXX stars who accuse Sam of promoting film piracy.
Jackson — aka Nick Fury — was at a news conference for the new Capt. America movie when he was asked to name one of the best pop culture achievements of the last 50 years. SLJ had a quick answer: RedTube — the free porn sharing website.
Now some actors in the skin biz are demanding an apology from Sam … telling TMZ RedTube is nothing more than a pirate site that allows users to illegally post stolen porn. And, they add, “Superheroes don’t steal porn.”
Our second porn post, via Al Jazeera:
PayPal blocking transactions of porn professionals
- Emails obtained by cite concerns over webcam transactions and security
Online payment giant PayPal closed porn star Teal Conrad’s accounts and “banned her from the site,” she told Al Jazeera on Wednesday, one day after a report on how financial institutions are shutting out clients who work in the adult entertainment industry.
An email sent by PayPal to Conrad, obtained by Al Jazeera, said: “We’ve recently reviewed your PayPal account activity and determined that you are in violation of PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy regarding your sales / offers of cam shows.”
PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy bars people from using the service for transactions involving “certain sexually oriented materials or services.”
Digesting legal weed with the Independent:
Colorado’s new cannabis laws: OK to smoke, not OK to eat
Colorado, the US state which recently became the first to legalise cannabis for recreational use, is considering new legislation to govern pot-infused food. A task force comprised of lawmakers and marijuana producers met in Aurora, near Denver, on Wednesday to begin discussing new rules for the labelling and consumption of so-called “edibles”, following two recent deaths that were said to have been marijuana-related.
In late 2012, Colorado voters passed a constitutional amendment legalising marijuana for recreational use. The new law came into force on 1 January 2014, when legal commercial weed sales began. In its first month, the state raised around $2m (£1.2m) in pot taxes.
For many, edible pot products have proved to be a more practical alternative to smoking the drug: the law prohibits smoking weed outdoors and few hotels allow it on their premises. Yet while edibles are increasingly popular, there are also widespread complaints from consumers that they are inadvertently ingesting too much pot too quickly, leading to bad experiences.
From The Register, getting a little for a lot?:
Google Glass teardown puts rock-bottom price on hardware
- Google objects to notion that $1500 headset only costs $80 to make
A teardown report on Google Glass is raising eyebrows over suggestions that the augmented reality headset costs as little as $80 to produce.
Researchers with the TechInsights’ teardown.com service placed the bill of materials (BOM) of the device at a mere $79.78. The report, which considers the cost of components ranging from processor and battery to non-electric structural pieces, estimates that no part of a Glass headset costs the company more than $14.
Thus far, Google has limited the Glass headset to tightly-controlled demo programs and a one-day sale which require users to cough up $1,500 to get their hands on the headset.
Al Jazeera America covers the plight of Native Americans in the U.S.:
Exclusive: Navajo Nation report raises concerns on ‘food sovereignty’
- Researchers suggest the nation needs to develop homegrown solutions to counter the scarcity of healthy food
Many in the Navajo Nation do not have the food they need, even though more than half the population receives some kind of nutritional subsidy, according to a study by Navajo Nation researchers released exclusively to Al Jazeera.
The inability to adequately feed its people poses a threat to the Navajo Nation’s sovereignty and sustainability, according to the study’s authors, who suggest the need to develop homegrown solutions to food scarcity.
The Diné Food Sovereignty Report, the most extensive exploration to date on the nation’s food supply, is scheduled for release next week by the Navajo think tank the Diné Policy Institute (DPI). The study reveals that 63 percent of 230 Navajo people surveyed receive some kind of government food subsidy such as food stamps.
And the Canadian Press covers their plight north of the border:
Report of 1,000 murdered or missing aboriginal women spurs calls for inquiry
- APTN reports RCMP arrived at tally after contacting other police forces across Canada
The Conservative government is resisting renewed calls for an inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls despite a media report that suggests there may be hundreds more cases than previously thought.
Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney was asked Thursday to finally call a inquiry in light of a report by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network that Canada may be home to more than 1,000 cases of murdered and missing women.
His answer, in short: no.
Instead, Blaney launched a partisan broadside against the NDP’s refusal to support the government’s budget bill, which includes a five-year, $25-million renewal of money aimed at stopping violence against aboriginal women and girls.
And another nother-of-the-border woe from the Toronto Globe and Mail:
Rob Ford takes leave as recent drug video emerges
A second video of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking what has been described as crack cocaine by a self-professed drug dealer was secretly filmed in his sister’s basement early Saturday morning.
The clip, which was viewed by two Globe and Mail reporters, shows Mr. Ford taking a drag from a long copper-coloured pipe, exhaling a cloud of smoke and then frantically shaking his right hand. The footage is part of a package of three videos that the drug dealer says he surreptitiously shot around 1:15 a.m., and which he says he is now selling for “at least six figures.”
The footage comes to light weeks after Mr. Ford embarked on a re-election campaign styled on the importance of second chances and forgiving mistakes. Nearly a year ago, the mayor thrust himself into worldwide infamy when another drug dealer, Mohamed Siad, tried to sell another video of the mayor allegedly smoking crack to media outlets in Canada and the United States. At the time, the mayor denied using the drug, only to later admit that he had smoked crack cocaine in a “drunken stupor” and that he was not an addict.
Off to Europe starting with a bubble alarm from the Guardian:
Bank of England warns UK housing market could suffer hard landing
Deputy governor for financial stability says it’s ‘dangerous’ to ignore momentum in housing market, and warns it could end in sharp correction and negative equity for many households
And the neoliberal agenda strike again, tragically. From the Guardian:
Owen Paterson defends ‘privatising’ UK environmental science agency
- New commercial partner sought for Food and Research Agency, but Labour denounces move as a ‘secretive sell-off’
The UK environment secretary has defended government plans to seek a private investor for its environmental science agency.
But the Labour party said that the lack of detail from Owen Paterson made the move look like a “secretive sell-off” and “anti-science”.
The Guardian reported on Monday that plans were in motion to open up the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), which undertakes research on pesticides, bee health, GM safety, alien pests and food-testing, to a joint venture with investment from the private sector.
Easing separation anxieties with the London Telegraph:
Scottish ‘yes’ vote could improve UK credit, says Moody’s
- Moody’s has said an independent Scotland would likely receive an investment grade rating and that the rest of the UK’s credit could actually be improved in the event of a ‘yes’ vote
Britain could end up with a better credit rating if Scotland votes for independence, with a ‘yes’ providing the catalyst for an upgrade of the remaining UK’s debt, according to Moody’s.
The rating agency said Scottish independence was “unlikely” to have any impact on the country’s credit and that the elimination of the sizeable fiscal transfers between the rest of Britain and Scotland could actually be a “credit positive”.
In a series of reports on the impact of independence, Moody’s said it believed Scotland would likely hold an investment grade rating, but warned that the rest of the UK would only maintain its current credit if the Scottish accepted their share of Britain’s debt pile.
From the Guardian, austerianism strikes again:
Freeze minimum wage for a decade, says Commission of Audit
- Level should be reduced to 44% of average weekly earnings, or $486.20 a week, from its current $622.20, says report
The minimum wage should be frozen for a decade, reduced to 44% of average weekly earnings and vary between states and territories, according to the Commission of Audit.
The current minimum wage is $622.20 a week, or $16.37 an hour, about 56% of average weekly earnings. Reducing it by 44% this year would see it fall to $486.20 a week.
The report recommends that the cut could be implemented over 10 years by keeping the growth at 1 percentage point less than inflation.
And from the Independent, the geography of health:
People born in the wealthy south east have 14 more years without disability than those from Liverpool or Manchester
Further evidence of the scale of the UK’s health divide was revealed today as it emerged that those born in the richest London boroughs and affluent parts of the South East can expect to enjoy up to 14 years of additional disability-free life compared with those from the most deprived parts of England.
An average man born in Liverpool or Manchester will live for just 56 years before developing a major life-limiting condition, spending a quarter of his natural span coping with disability, figures published by the Office for National Statistics have revealed.
The findings have major implications for health policy makers who were urged to take urgent steps to end the lifespan lottery of an individual’s birthplace dictating their future longevity and wellbeing.
On to Sweden and more hard times intolerance from TheLocal.se:
Mass arrests at neo-Nazi May Day demonstration
A total of 19 people have been arrested and dozens of others carted away following clashes at a neo-Nazi May Day march in Jönköping, central Sweden, where counter demonstrators outnumbered the far-right activists.
The protest march by the right wing Party of the Swedes (Svenskarnas party – SVP) attracted a large police presence, reckoned to be as high as 450 officers, following trouble at a similar rally last year.
In addition to the 19 arrests, a further 90 people were taken away from the scene by bus. Another 32 people were taken into custody on grounds of causing disorder. It’s understood that of the 19 arrests, 13 of them were as a result of disobeying police orders.
And from Amsterdam, warnings of corporate misbehavin’ from DutchNews.nl:
Dutch central bank says trust office performances are ‘worrying’
Trust offices, which manage letter box companies in the Netherlands, are not doing their job properly, according to the Dutch central bank, the Financieele Dagblad reports on Thursday.
The central bank looked into 10 trust offices and concluded that only two were completely above board.
Four lost their licences, two were fined and two others are the subject of further investigation to assess if their managers are ‘suitable and trustworthy’, the Financieele Dagblad says.
Germany next, and a labor day demand from Deutsche Welle:
German unions demand wage minimum without loopholes
Germany’s DGB trade union federation has marked May Day by demanding that a minimum wage be introduced nationwide without loopholes. Leaders also blamed high youth unemployment in southern Europe on austerity policies.
Germany’s trade union chief Michael Sommer told Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government on Thursday to resist employer pressure for exceptions while legislating to introduce a planned hourly wage minimum of 8.50 euros ($11.50).
The minimum – known in German as ‘Mindestlohn’ and to be phased in over the next two years – was one of the key policy planks of the coalition which Merkel’s conservatives formed with the union-allied Social Democrats (SPD) in January.
Speaking at a May Day rally in Bremen, Sommer said “no hour should be cheaper than 8.50 euros,” adding that the unions saw that wage minimum’s introduction as a “test” on whether Merkel’s government was “really serious” about social justice.
Reuters delivers the cuts:
Siemens to cut thousands of jobs as part of new strategy: report
A new strategy to be unveiled by Siemens (SIEGn.DE) on May 7 will include thousands of job cuts, Germany’s Manager Magazin Online reported on Monday, citing several senior Siemens managers.
It said the strategy would see Siemens’ four main divisions – Industry, Energy, Healthcare and Infrastructure & Cities – dismantled, creating a flatter hierarchy and resulting in job cuts of roughly between 5,000-10,000.
It also said Siemens would announce an acquisition in the energy sector worth at least 1 billion euros ($1.38 billion), separate to the deal with Alstom (ALSO.PA) currently being considered by Siemens.
Off to Italy, and a judicial shoe-in from TheLocal.it:
Dolce & Gabbana duo get 18-month jail sentence
Italian fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana were on Wednesday sentenced to 18 months in prison for tax evasion, going against a prosecutor’s call last month to have the pair acquitted.
The designers were found guilty of €200 million worth of tax evasion, through the creation of a shell company in Luxembourg in 2004 and 2005.
Wednesday’s decision by Milan’s Court of Appeal upholds the guilty verdict of Dolce and Gabbana’s trial last year, reducing their prison sentences by two months.
After the jump, Latin American news, a postal privatization push Down Under, mixed economic and environmental news form China, economic uncertainly in Japan, emerging global environmental threats, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading