We’ll begin today’s compendium of things political, economic, and ecologic right here in esnl’s own Golden State with this from the Pew Research Center:
In 2014, Latinos will surpass whites as largest racial/ethnic group in California
According to California Governor Jerry Brown’s new state budget, Latinos are projected to become the largest single racial/ethnic group in the state by March of this year, making up 39% of the state’s population. That will make California only the second state, behind New Mexico, where whites are not the majority and Latinos are the plurality, meaning they are not more than half but they comprise the largest percentage of any group.
California’s demographers also project that in mid-2014, the state’s residents will be 38.8% white non-Hispanic, 13% Asian American or Pacific Islander, 5.8% black non-Hispanic, and less than 1% Native American. But the state’s demographics in 2014 are very different from what they had been. In 2000, California’s 33.9 million residents were 46.6% white non-Hispanic, 32.3% Latino, 11.1% Asian American or Pacific Islander, 6.4% black non-Hispanic and about 1% Native American. In 1990, white non-Hispanics made up more than half (57.4%) of the state’s then 29.7 million residents, while 25.4% of Californians were Latino, 9.2% were Asian American or Pacific Islander, 7.1% were black non-Hispanic and about 1% were Native American.
More Californiosity from the San Francisco Chronicle:
Income inequity a hot topic on California ballots
When state voters cast their ballots in November, they could be making decisions on several measures intended to bring the income levels of rich and poor closer together. They include a cap on hospital executives’ pay, more taxes on oil companies and a higher minimum wage.
There’s real money behind each effort. The hospital CEOs are being targeted by a deep-pockets union. The oil-tax measure would be financed by a rich former hedge-fund manager, and a Silicon Valley millionaire is behind the minimum-wage hike.
The money lining up against them is just as formidable. Business groups, the health care industry and oil giants are expected to do whatever it takes to try to defeat what some conservatives denounce as the products of class-warfare ideology.
And some reallly bad news for a very dry state from the San Jose Mercury News:
California drought: Past dry periods have lasted more than 200 years, scientists say
California’s current drought is being billed as the driest period in the state’s recorded rainfall history. But scientists who study the West’s long-term climate patterns say the state has been parched for much longer stretches before that 163-year historical period began.
And they worry that the “megadroughts” typical of California’s earlier history could come again.
Through studies of tree rings, sediment and other natural evidence, researchers have documented multiple droughts in California that lasted 10 or 20 years in a row during the past 1,000 years — compared to the mere three-year duration of the current dry spell. The two most severe megadroughts make the Dust Bowl of the 1930s look tame: a 240-year-long drought that started in 850 and, 50 years after the conclusion of that one, another that stretched at least 180 years.
Just how bad is it? From the USDA’s National Drought Monitor:
Hopeful signs, via The Guardian:
Occupy the minimum wage: will young people restore the strength of unions?
- The ‘Fight for 15′ movement, driven by millennials, picks up where Occupy left off and shows a new interest in labour unions
Alicia White, 25, defied the odds of a poor background by attending college on a partial scholarship and going to graduate school. While she spends her days applying for jobs, the only work she has found so far is face-painting at children’s birthday parties.
“By going to college and graduate school, I thought I was insulating myself from being broke and sleeping on friends’ couches and being hungry again. The big, scary part is that I am going to end up where I was, but now I am going to be in that awful situation with $50,000 of debt,” White says.
White’s story is no exception. One in two college graduates are now either unemployed or underemployed. Millennials – even those from the middle class – are experiencing income inequality and America’s failed dream of upward mobility first-hand. The mismatch of college-educated young workers with low-wage, unskilled, precarious jobs is creating a new face of the once-dwindling American labor movement: young, diverse, led by millennials in their twenties and thirties, and fighting what they see as an unfair labor market. Their modest cause? Pushing for a higher minimum wage.
Linking up with Nikkei Asian Review:
Silicon Valley venture capital enhancing US-China economic ties
Tsinghua University, one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in China, is rapidly expanding its influence in Silicon Valley through a tech-oriented seed accelerator it supports.
Tsinghua, the alma mater of a legion of political and business leaders in China, including President Xi Jinping, is capitalizing on its powerful alumni network to make deep inroads into the heart of technological innovation in the U.S.
The seed accelerator set up by the university in April 2012, InnoSpring, has established a solid presence in America’s vibrant venture capital scene in less than two years.
Old Idea to Fix Inner Cities Gets New Name: ‘Promise Zones’
In 1994, Bill Clinton tried to revitalize the mean streets of West Philadelphia. At the time, unemployment and crime were high, graduation rates were low, and businesses were exiting. Clinton’s Philadelphia-Camden Empowerment Zone, one of several in troubled urban areas around the country, received $100 million over 10 years in federal grants and tax credits for companies that hired neighborhood residents and invested in the community. Two decades later, not a lot has visibly changed in West Philly. Shop owners work behind bulletproof glass, jobless men sit on stoops drinking beer, and another president is looking to local leaders and businesses to turn things around.
At a White House ceremony on Jan. 9, President Obama announced the first 5 of 20 “promise zones” in parts of San Antonio, Los Angeles, southeastern Kentucky, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and West Philadelphia, including a half-dozen blocks that also were part of Clinton’s zone. Obama’s plan calls on federal agencies to help business owners cut through bureaucracy to win federal grants and bring together schools, companies, and nonprofits to support literacy programs and job training. “We will help them succeed,” the president said. “Not with a handout, but as partners with them, every step of the way. And we’re going to make sure it works.”
Why are US corporate profits so high? Because wages are so low
U.S. businesses have never had it so good.
Corporate cash piles have never been bigger, either in dollar terms or as a share of the economy. The labor market, meanwhile, is still millions of jobs short of where it was before the global financial crisis first erupted over six years ago.
Not in the slightest, according to Jan Hatzius, chief U.S. economist at Goldman Sachs:
“The strength (in profits) is directly related to the weakness in hourly wages, which are still growing at just a 2% nominal pace. The weakness of wages and the resulting strength of profits are telling signs that the US labor market is still far from full employment.
Another another American institution offshores its money and most of its ownership, via TheLocal.it:
Fiat-Chrysler to seek US stock listing, British base
The newly combined Fiat-Chrysler automaker will seek a fiscal domicile in Britain and a stock listing on a New York exchange, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.
Fiat chief executive Sergio Marchionne, who has overseen the company’s gradual purchase of Chrysler since 2009, is set to make the proposal to the board next week, people familiar with the plans told the Journal.
The Italian automaker completed its acquisition of Chrysler this week in a $4.35-billion transaction after a five-year merger that creates a new global car giant.
The deal involved buying the remaining 41.46 percent stake in Chrysler not held by Fiat from Veba, a fund controlled by the US autoworkers’ union UAW.
From USA TODAY, Alpine redoubt surrenders:
Swiss banks closer to deals in tax-evasion probe
- More than 100 financial institutions willing to ID tax evaders in exchange for non-prosecution deals.
More than 100 Swiss banks and other institutions have signaled they will seek non-prosecution agreements and provide information to U.S. authorities investigating suspected off-shore tax evasion by Americans, a top Department of Justice official said Saturday.
The announcement by Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Keneally provided the first government confirmation on the number of Swiss banks that are expected to disclose how they helped U.S. clients evade taxes, provide financial data about the clients and pay fines to settle criminal investigations.
In all, 106 Swiss financial institutions filed formal letters of intent by the Dec. 31, 2013, deadline set by federal investigators, said Keneally, who made the announcement at the winter meeting of the American Bar Association’s tax section in Phoenix.
And Sky News has good news for Wall Street banksters:
Non-EU Banks Slip Through Bonus Cap Loophole
- Wall Street banks can raise bonuses without a vote from their parent’s shareholders under new EU rules, Sky News learns.
Major global banks such as Morgan Stanley and Nomura are benefiting from a loophole in new European pay rules that could leave British rivals at a big disadvantage.
Sky News understands that banks based outside the European Union (EU) are able to approve bigger bonuses for employees of their subsidiaries in the trading bloc without recourse to external shareholders.
That means Wall Street and Asian banks can instantly consent to variable pay for senior staff worth double the level of their salaries, the maximum permissible under the new EU cap.
A quick trip to Canada and a mind-boggling headline from the uber-conservative National Post:
‘Economically worthless but emotionally priceless’: Children don’t make you happy, but can still be rewarding, expert says
A global story from The Guardian:
IMF fears global markets threat as US cuts back on cash stimulus
- Sudden slump in Argentina leads to fears that other emerging countries could face troubles
The International Monetary Fund is closely monitoring recent events in the world’s emerging markets amid concerns that the withdrawal of monetary stimulus by the US will add to the turmoil caused by the sudden slump in Argentina.
The IMF believes that the next phase of the gradual removal of stimulus to the US economy by the Federal Reserve, due later this week, could be the trigger for fresh turbulence in countries seen as vulnerable to capital flight, such as Turkey and Indonesia.
Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, told participants at the World Economic Forum in Davos that the so-called tapering by the US central bank was a potential problem.
And from Reuters, look forward for more of those too-big-to-fail banks:
Top bankers expect EU stress tests to reignite banking M&A
Bankers expect a thorough European Central Bank (ECB) health check of the euro zone’s largest banks to reignite domestic and cross-border merger activity by rebuilding confidence among lenders.
The sovereign debt crises that nearly caused a break-up of the single currency in 2011/12 has generated mistrust among banks and caused an effective breakdown of cross-border bank investment flows as they hoarded capital at home.
But the ECB’s asset quality review, an assessment of the balance sheets of more than 120 banks that is due to be completed next autumn, should bring transparency on the quality of banks’ loans and other assets, bankers and regulators at the World Economic Forum in Davos said.
Off to England and another sign of the times from The Independent:
Exclusive: Eating disorders soar among teens – and social media is to blame
- Social media blamed for the doubling in the number of youngsters seeking help for anorexia and bulimia in the last three years
The number of children and teenagers seeking help for an eating disorder has risen by 110 per cent in the past three years, according to figures given exclusively to The Independent on Sunday.
ChildLine says it received more than 10,500 calls and online inquiries from young people struggling with food and weight-related anxiety in the last financial year. The charity believes this dramatic increase could be attributed to several factors, including the increased pressure caused by social media, the growth of celebrity culture, and the rise of anorexia websites.
The problem is most prevalent among girls of secondary school age. During 2012-13, counselling with girls about concerns of eating problems outnumbered counselling with boys by 32:1.
The Guardian covers an exodus:
The great migration south: 80% of new private sector jobs are in London
- Talented young people are leaving provincial cities to make a success of their lives in London and never go back, report shows
Talented young people are leaving provincial cities in their 20s, making a success of their lives in London and never go back. London is where the work is: the capital was responsible for four out of every five jobs created in the private sector between 2010 and 2012.
The brain drain meant that every major city outside the south-east is losing young people to London. One in three 22-30 year olds leaving their hometowns end up with Oyster cards and Boris as their mayor.
On to Ireland for a very familiar headline from Independent.ie:
Priests’ organisation accuse Education Minster of “underminding religion”
THE Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) has hit out at Education Minister Ruairi Quinn after he claimed that primary schools should divert time spent teaching religion to core subject areas.
The Labour Minister has sparked fury after suggesting that schools should use time allocated for religion to focus on improving pupils’ reading and maths.
The group described Mr Quinn’s remarks as “unacceptable” and accused the Labour TD of attempting to devise educational policy “on the hoof”.
Germany next and a gain for eurofoes from Deutsche Welle:
Germany’s euroskeptic party revamps its image
The upstart Alternative for Germany party attracted voters in the last election with its tough anti-euro currency stance. Now, in a quest to enter the European Parliament, the party is embracing populist sentiments.
At their most recent political convention, members of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) were hoping to come up with a list of candidates for the upcoming European Parliament elections, but their plan didn’t quite work out. Around 100 candidates had applied for the 10 available positions. Following a 12-hour session, only six candidates had been decided on – and the session has been extended to next weekend.
Nevertheless, AfD leader Bernd Lucke used the meeting as an opportunity to present the party’s new slogan, “Mut zu Deutschland” (loosely translated: “Courage to be German”) – which replaces the former slogan “Mut zur Wahrheit” (“Courage to Uphold Truth”) that helped the AfD gain 4.7 percent of the votes in Germany’s last federal election. The party members present welcomed the move.
More from EUbusiness:
German eurosceptics poll 7% ahead of European vote
The eurosceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) party scored seven percent in a poll published Sunday ahead of May’s European Parliament elections where populist groups are hoping to boost their numbers.
The Emnid institute poll was published by newspaper Bild am Sonntag a day after the political newcomer party elected its top European candidates and railed against Germany’s mainstream political groups.
Party chief Bernd Lucke, 51, branded Chancellor Angela Merkel a “chameleon” and, under a campaign dubbed “Courage for Germany”, promised an alternative to “adaptable, streamlined, slick politicians who stand for nothing”.
The AfD, which has said it favours a return from the euro to the deutschmark currency, was formed last year but missed out on seats in September national elections, scoring just below a five percent threshold.
The rise in anti-euro sentiment met with harsh words from Angela Merkel’s junior coalition partner. From Reuters:
German SPD leader raps ‘stupid’ eurosceptic campaign in Europe vote
The head of Germany’s Social Democrats in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition on Sunday denounced eurosceptic parties on the far left and right as “stupid” and pledged a tough fight against them in the European parliamentary election campaign.
Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, also Merkel’s economy minister and head of the Social Democrats, blasted the “uniting enemies of Europe on the left and right” over their anti-European campaigning for the May election.
“Let’s stand up against these stupid slogans about Germany being ‘the paymaster of Europe’,” Gabriel said, referring in particular to the campaign of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party that has attracted voters opposed to spending taxpayer money on bailing out struggling euro zone countries.
TheLocal.de charts a familiar trend:
‘Land grab’ ups prices in eastern Germany
- Land prices in eastern Germany are rising at dizzying rates and local farmers feel they are being squeezed out by foreign investors in a phenomenon known as “land grabbing”.
The price of a hectare of land has risen by 54 percent between 2009 and 2012 in Brandenburg state and by 79 percent in neighbouring Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, even if prices remain below those in the west of the country — at least for now.
The rural east of Germany has vast swathes of arable land inherited from communist times, when farming was in the hands of huge collectives, known as LPGs.
But today the land is increasingly being snapped up by foreign investors, often with no background or interest in farming, pushing prices up and forcing out locals.
Denmark next, and more of that hard times intolerance from New Europe:
Right-wing MEP wants to punish beggars in Denmark
Police in Denmark should be allowed to arrest beggars on the spot and the courts should be less lenient, according to one Member of the European Parliamentary who is aligned with the Dansk Folkeparti (a right-wing populist party).
Morten Messerschmidt pointed to official justice ministry figures showing a drop in the number of people convicted of begging over the past five years. For instance, only seven of the 185 people charged with begging were ever convicted.
According to Messerschmidt, this number is “surprisingly low”. He said the reason is probably because police are required to issue a warning to beggars before arresting them. He also said that a growing number of beggars in Denmark are Eastern European.
From DutchNews.nl, booming business:
One of Tilburg’s biggest industries is marijuana: NRC
Between €728m and €884m is earned from marijuana production in Tilburg region on an annual basis, the NRC said at the weekend, quoting confidential research.
The illegal industry is so large that it poses a ‘serious threat to the safety and integrity of society,’ said the report, which was put together by researchers from Tilburg University and crime prevention experts.
Marijuana production in the area involves 2,500 people and between 600 and 900 plantations, the city’s mayor Peter Noordanus told the NRC. The drugs trade has grown into a criminal industry which ‘increasingly corrupts the legal and economic infrastructure,’ report said.
On to France and wild in the streets with France 24:
Thousands take part in Paris ‘Day of Anger’ targeting President Hollande
Several thousand people marched through central Paris on Sunday in a “Day of Anger” directly targeting France’s embattled President François Hollande and his policies, ending in both clashes and arrests.
Security forces used tear gas to disperse several hundred youths who lobbed police with bottles, fireworks, iron bars and dustbins.
Police said at least 150 people had been arrested after the clashes, during which 19 officers were injured, one of these “potentially seriously”, according to one police source.
Italy next and a forced quit from EUbusiness:
Italy minister resigns amid abuse of power, corruption probes
Italy’s Agriculture Minister resigned Sunday amid allegations of abuse of power over the appointment of staff in the public healthcare system and in the wake of an investigation into the management of European Union funds for agriculture.
“I am resigning as minister. I cannot remain part of a government which has not defended my honour,” Nunzia De Girolamo said on Twitter.
De Girolamo was accused this month of exerting improper influence over the choice of healthcare managers in the city of Benevento in the Campania region, following revelations in the media of phone-tapped conversations in 2012.
She is the second minister to step down from Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s shaky coalition government.
More corruption from Corriere della Sera:
Tax-dodging Magnate owned 1,243 Properties
- Angiola Armellini, daughter of construction entrepreneur, under investigation for hiding more than €2.1 billion from tax authorities
From Rome’s glitzy jet-set and a two-storey penthouse a stone’s throw from the Vatican to an investigation by the prosecution service complete with financial police searches. Angiola Armellini, daughter of a surveyor who made a fortune covering the capital with 90,000 cubic metres of concrete, is alleged to have hidden 1,243 properties from the tax authorities. The buildings, of which 1,239 including three hotels are located in the municipality of Rome, are claimed to be worth €2.1 billion, including cash assets.
Public prosecutor Paolo Ielo entered Ms Armellini in the register of persons under investigation along with eleven nominees and accountants alleged to be complicit. Ms Armellini faces charges of criminal association, failure to submit tax returns and submitting fraudulent returns. Criminal association charges have also been brought against the accountants. Investigators calculate that the taxable base for the avoidance amounts to €190 million. City authorities also want to recover ICI property tax that was almost never paid. The bill could be €3.5 million for two years, a figure which multiplied by five – before that a time bar comes into play – becomes €17 million.
After the jump, the latest from Greece, Ukrainian crisis spreads, Latin American woes and protests, Aussie neooliberalism, Indian uncertainty, Bangla woes, Thai turmoil, Cambodian protests, Chinese financial uncertainty, Japanese wiseguy hopes, tarsands costs, fracking havoc, drought victims, and Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading