The impetus behind these headline collections is our personal drive to understand currents at work in this world we share, and to share our understandings with whoever cares to pay heed.
That’s about as neat a way of defining the journalist-by-avocation, a deeply endangered species in this austerity-dominated environment.
We were driven to try to understand by the circumstances of our childhood, and we are possessed of both a certain set of skills and a persistence driven by an imperative that has, too often, run afoul of forces that prevail in a once significantly more secure and economically rewarding.
One of the great joys of the newsroom in those analog days where folks got modestly but comfortably paid to spend their das turning over rocks was the access to an ongoing flow of uo-to-the-minute news — provided first by noisy impact printers fueled by ink ribbons impressing letters on rolls of paper.
We spent good portions of our days in “wirerooms,” reading the news as keys hammered out the letters on constantly fed newsprint.
Computers came next, with newswires feeding into newsroom mainframes and out to terminals. Between stories, green character danced on blackbackgrounds on cathode ray tubes as you searched the queues for the latest works of wire service reporters and member media.
With a wide range of input, our own experience from years of digging, and a relentless curiosity, we have been working a long list of global news sources, seeking threads to weave together in a sort of linear gestalt in which we discern patterns for your consideration.
On with today’s compendium of things economic, political, and environmental, starting with a telling headline from Spiegel:
Feeding the Bubble: Is the Next Crash Brewing?
Twitter executives and founders at the New York Stock Exchange on Nov. 7 clap as their company launches its initial public offering.
Central banks around the world are pumping trillions into the economy. The goal is to stimulate growth, but their actions are also driving up prices in the real estate and equities markets. The question is no longer whether there will be a crash, but when.
Another telling sign of bubbledom from Business Insider:
Institutions Have Been Dumping Billions Of Dollars Of Stocks All Year, But Now The Selling Is Really Accelerating
Ditto, from SINA English:
Global housing market returns to bubble territory
It is widely agreed that a series of collapsing housing market bubbles triggered the global financial crisis, along with the severe recession that followed. While the US is the best-known case, a combination of lax regulation and supervision of banks and low policy interest rates fueled similar bubbles in the UK, Spain, Ireland, Iceland, and Dubai.
Now, five years later, signs of frothiness, if not outright bubbles, are reappearing in housing markets in Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and, back for an encore, the UK (well, London). In emerging markets, bubbles are appearing in Singapore, China, and Israel, and in major urban centers in Turkey, India, Indonesia, and Brazil.
From the New York Times, reconsidering another form of austerity:
Seeing the Toll, Schools Revise Zero Tolerance
Faced with mounting evidence that get-tough policies in schools are leading to arrest records, low academic achievement and high dropout rates that especially affect minority students, cities and school districts around the country are rethinking their approach to minor offenses.
From the New York Times, unhealthy inflation:
As Hospital Prices Soar, a Single Stitch Tops $500
A day spent as an inpatient at an American hospital costs on average more than $4,000, five times the charge in many other developed countries, according to the International Federation of Health Plans, a global network of health insurance industries. The most expensive hospitals charge more than $12,500 a day. And at many of them, including California Pacific Medical Center, emergency rooms are profit centers. That is why one of the simplest and oldest medical procedures — closing a wound with a needle and thread — typically leads to bills of at least $1,500 and often much more.
From NBC News, have we got a deal for you:
Wal-Mart’s hottest Black Friday seller was a 29-cent towel
The must-have item at Wal-Mart on “Black Friday” wasn’t a mega TV, sleek tablet or the latest giggling Elmo. It was towels.
It’s a sign of the times that consumers battered by a recovery that has boosted corporate profits but has done little to raise their own bottom lines are reduced to scrapping over basic bathroom supplies.
From the Contributor Network, corporate parasitism:
Fast Food Giants Starve Workers’ Wages, Gorge on Taxpayers
As the nation’s largest fast food giants continue to push back against the ongoing fight for better wages by fast food workers across the country, a report released Monday reveals a world in which those companies are “pocketing massive taxpayer subsidies” as they feed their CEOs’ growing paychecks.
According to the report, Fast Food CEOs Rake in Taxpayer-Subsidized Pay, published by the Institute for Policy Studies, current tax code allows corporations such as Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut, and McDonald’s “to deduct unlimited amounts from their income taxes for the cost of stock options, certain stock grants, and other forms of so-called ‘performance pay’ for top executives,” meaning that the more corporations pay their top earners, the less they pay in federal taxes.
From Al Jazeera America, stirrings in the new underclass:
Workers of the (finance) world unite – and unionize
New effort to organize low-wage bank workers in US targets entire industry
Gettin’ by with Bloomberg:
Americans Due to Replace Oldest Goods Since JFK; Jewelry? FDR
Americans have been holding on to their wobbly washing machines and sagging sofas even longer than their grandparents did 50 years ago, setting the stage for a rebound in consumer spending as old household goods wear out.
The average age of consumer durable goods — long-lasting items such as furniture, appliances and computers — is the highest since 1962, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis dating to 1925. Among things Americans are keeping for the longest time: jewelry and wristwatches and home and garden tools like lawnmowers.
From The Guardian, what we suspect is more a temporary setback than signs of defeat [think rebranding]:
ALEC facing funding crisis from donor exodus in wake of Trayvon Martin row
- Rightwing lobby group appealing to major donors to return
- Internal documents reveal so-called ‘Prodigal Son Project’
- Network lost almost 400 state legislators over past two years
CNBC covers a candidate:
Detroit eligible for bankruptcy protection: Judge
A federal judge presiding over Detroit’s bankruptcy hearing said on Tuesday the city is eligible for bankruptcy protection.
The long-awaited decision will pit the city’s finance officials against its unions, creditors and retirees, ahead of what are expected to be steep cuts in pensions, as well as fire sales of treasured assets. The ruling is expected to be appealed.
From Reuters, another diagnosis:
Companies, academics say budget cuts threaten U.S. competitiveness
Mandatory U.S. budget cuts known as sequestration are resulting in job losses across the country and threaten to undermine U.S. competitiveness in the global economy, industry executives and academics said on Monday, urging Congress to reverse the cuts.
The Guardian covers a related cause for concern:
‘A picture of educational stagnation’: study finds US teen students lagging
US students scored at international average in science and reading and far below in math, while Asian nations dominated
Al Jazeera America covers another austerian cost:
Arizona’s privatized prison health care under fire after deaths
A year and a half ago, the state handed over prison healthcare to a private, for-profit company. Legislators who supported the privatization promised that it would save taxpayers money, while maintaining adequate levels of care for inmates. At least 27 other states have also privatized prison health care, rewarding private companies for keeping costs down.
But there are studies showing prisoners could be suffering as a result. An October report from the American Friends Services Committee in Arizona found that since the state privatized its prison health care, medical spending in prisons dropped by $30 million and staffing levels plummeted. It also found a sharp spike in the number of inmate deaths. In the first eight months of 2013, 50 people died in Arizona Department of Corrections custody, compared with 37 deaths in the previous two years combined.
Heading north of the border with Boing Boing and another corporate power-and-wealth grab:
ACTA about to be quietly written into Canadian law
Widespread, global protests killed ACTA, the secretive, over-reaching “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement,” which imposed brutal copyright rules on its signatories. But now, the Canadian Conservatives have introduced Bill C-8, which turns ACTA’s provisions into Canadian law, and they’re fast-tracking it through with little debate or public input.
From BBC News, UC Berkeley’s corporate sponsor recruits a powerful ally:
BP gets UK government support over US contracts ban
The UK government has intervened in support of BP over a US ban on the oil major seeking federal contracts. In a court filing lodged as part of BP’s appeal against the ban, the document says the move could be “excessive” and “destabilising”.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) barred BP from new contracts last year, after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil rig disaster in which 11 workers died.
Quartz covers a parallel regional development:
How US trade negotiators are secretly changing intellectual-property law
If someone buys a book in Thailand, should she be able to sell it to a used bookstore—or anyone else—in the US? The US Supreme Court says yes. But US trade negotiators say no, and they’re working to make sure the same prohibition would apply around the world.
From EurActiv fears of another corporate power-and-wealth grab in progress:
NGOs fear TTIP clauses will affect EU chemicals regulation
Last week, Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht said that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) could include Investor-State Dispute Settlement procedures which will not allow foreign investors to go to court in the US. Green Party observers have called the statement ‘astonishing’.
Speaking at a committee meeting in the European Parliament, de Gucht reportedly promised to check whether such settlements would allow lawsuits over health sector privatisations.
On to Europe, starting with an alert from ANSAmed:
Austerity poses a risk to citizen rights, Council of Europe
The austerity measures brought in by European governments are threatening the economic, social, political and civil rights of its citizens, said Council of Europe human rights commissioner Nils Muiznieks
From EUbusiness, another alert:
Commissioner warns of far-right surge at May polls
European Union Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem voiced concern Tuesday that the EU Parliament will shift toward the far right in elections set for May.
While Reuters covers a fine time for Banksters Behaving Badly:
EU readies multi-million euro benchmark rigging fines: sources
EU antitrust regulators will impose record multi-million euro fines on six banks including Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland on Wednesday for rigging key interest rate benchmarks, sources said.
British news begins with a headline from Global Times:
Cameron backs free trade
British Prime Minister David Cameron commenced a three-day visit to China on Monday with a 100-strong business delegation, the largest of its kind, and pledged to lay the groundwork for a free trade deal between Beijing and the European Union.
Cameron said the scale of the business delegation “mirrors the scale of the ambition that we have for the British-China partnership.”
While South China Morning Post covers the reception give Tory grandiosity:
Tiny old Britain? It’s only good for study and travel, says China’s state media
As British Prime Minister David Cameron launched a charm offensive at Shanghai Jiao Tong University yesterday, a state-owned newspaper derided the United Kingdom as merely a destination for Chinese students and tourists.
From The Guardian, British bubbling:
Bank of England committee flags up housing market concerns
Financial policy committee ‘concerned about potential risks to financial stability’ from possible housing bubble
From BBC News, selling off the commons to fix the commons:
UK government’s infrastructure spending plan unveiled
A plan to boost infrastructure spending in the UK over the next two decades is being unveiled by the government. The National Infrastructure Plan (NIP) includes the government selling off its 40% stake in the Eurostar rail service.
In all, about £375bn of investment in energy, transport, communications, and water projects is planned.
An Irish item from Independent.ie:
Squeeze on household finances hits consumer confidence
Consumer sentiment fell to 71 in November from 76.2 in October, according to the KBC Bank/ESRI index.
Austin Hughes of KBC Bank said the fall indicated that the recovery in the economy was still fragile.
On to the Netherlands, with anti-Roma xenophobia from EUobserver:
Dutch against opening up to Romanians and Bulgarians
Eighty percent of Dutch people are against lifting restrictions on 1 January to allow Romanians and Bulgarians to come and work in the Netherlands. The poll of 1,800 people, carried out by Maurice de Hond, found that among supporters of the PVV – an anti-EU party – it is 100%.
From DutchNews.nl, poverty numeration:
1.2 million Dutch households below poverty line, 11% of children are poor
At least 1.2 million people were living in poverty in the Netherlands last year, a rise of over 150,000 people on 2011, according to a new report.
Research by the national statistics office CBS and the government’s socio-cultural think-tank SCP, shows 7.6% of the population is now living below the poverty line. Last year’s rise is the sharpest since the economic crisis began in 2008.
Germany next, with more bankster news from Channel NewsAsia Singapore:
Germany’s Commerzbank raided in client tax probe
German authorities on Tuesday raided some 40 branches of Commerzbank, the country’s second biggest bank, over suspected tax fraud by hundreds of clients, the bank and prosecutors said.
From TheLocal.de, inflationary:
Crop failures push up German food prices
Food in Germany was more expensive this year, with some crops such as potatoes costing nearly half as much again as in 2012.
The cold winter, floods in June and a particularly hot summer are being blamed for crop failures leading to an above-inflation jump in German food prices over the past 12 months.
From Süddeutsche Zeitung, another sign of the times:
Refugee Protests Leave Berlin Divided
A refugee slams a briefcase down on the table, snaps it open and takes out a series of plastic cards. “Here,” he says, “health card from Italy, residence permit, identity card. We have everything. Our asylum cases are complete. We’re allowed to move around in Europe, but we’re not allowed to work, not at all.”
It is Thursday morning in the Berlin district of Wedding. We are in a former retirement home that is now run by charity organization Caritas, and houses 80 refugees. Almost all are men from African countries. Many made the perilous journey from Libya to Lampedusa, and from there were sent on an odyssey through Europe. They were most recently living in tents on Oranienplatz square in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, protesting against deportations and unfair asylum laws.
France next, with austerian receptivity from TheLocal.fr:
Most French ‘ready to sacrifice public services’
Traditionally the French place a high value on their public services but as the economic crisis takes hold it appears the mood might be changing, according to the results of new poll published this week that were described “taboo-breaking”.
A majority of French people believe that it is now necessary to close some public services and lay off civil servants in order to help reduce public deficit, according to a new poll.
TheLocal.fr again, with another sign of the times:
Inequality on the increase in French education
The three-yearly Pisa report by the Paris-based Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OCED) published on Tuesday revealed that France has dropped three places in the global rankings compared to 2009, the last time the study was carried out.
The overall rankings for 2012, based on the performances of 15-year-olds in maths, science and reading, were dominated by Asian countries with France coming in 25th place out of 65.
On to Spain with El País and banksters behaving frugally:
Lending to households suffers record fall as banks remain parsimonious after bailout
Company credit also slumps to lowest level since 2007
ThinkSpain has Bankster Behaving Badly:
Novagalicia Bank fined for selling shares to baby
A BANK has been ordered to pay compensation after knowingly selling shares to a four-month-old baby.
The court of Ponferrada (León province) has declared the sale contract between the infant and Novagalicia Banco (NGB) null and void, and instructed the entity to refund the 4,800 euros it invested in subordinate shares, plus interest and legal costs.
From TheLocal.es, divisions:
Spain’s top parties won’t govern alone: Poll
Spain is facing an increasingly splintered political future with neither of the country’s two major parties likely to be able to form government alone in a future election, a new poll published on Sunday shows.
El País has mixed signals:
Unemployment falls in November for the first time in decades
Opposition points to falling Social Security affiliation as sign of declining active population due to emigration
And from ThinkSpain, going down?:
Spain falls 10 places on world corruption index, reveals Transparency
SPAIN is 40th out of a list of 177 countries on the world ‘corruption scale’, with number 177 – the most corrupt – being Somalia, according to figures released by a German charity.
On to Italy with TheLocal.it, and company for Spain:
Italy among most corrupt countries in Europe
Italy has been ranked one of the most corrupt countries in Europe, although it is slightly less corrupt than a year ago, according to Transparency International’s annual index released on Tuesday.
Italy came 69th in the list of 177 countries and territories in this year’s Corruption Perceptions Index. The country’s public sector is perceived to be more corrupt than dozens of other nations including Saudi Arabia and Cuba, which came in joint 63rd place.
TheLocal.it with one reason why:
‘Anti-mafia’ mayor arrested for mafia ties
A mayor described as an “anti-mafia icon” has been put under house arrest for allegedly buying votes of the mafia she campaigned against, Italian media reported on Tuesday.
Carolina Girasole was arrested on Tuesday morning in Isola Capo Rizzuto, where she served as mayor from 2008 to 2013, La Repubblica reported.
A troikarch delivers a slam, via TheLocal.it:
Italy ‘failing to cut debt quickly enough’
Italy is failing to cut debt quickly enough but is past the worst of its crisis, the EU’s Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said in an interview in La Repubblica newspaper on Tuesday.
“Italy should respect a certain speed of debt reduction, and it is not doing so. The structural adjustment should have been equal to half a percentage point of gross domestic product, and it is only 0.1 percent,” he said.
The New York Times has the response:
PM Letta Raps EU’s Rehn for Sceptical Comments on Italy
Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta on Tuesday criticised European Commissioner Olli Rehn for expressing scepticism about Italy’s ability to respect pledges to cut its public debt.
The economic and monetary affairs commissioner warned in a newspaper interview that Italy was not cutting its debt fast enough and he “had to be sceptical” over its plans to cut spending and sell state assets.
After the jump, Greek crisis, Ukrainian upheaval, Russian violence, change in Cuba, Brazilian slowdowns and setbacks, Indian concerns, Thai troubles, the Chinese neoliberal push, mixed Japanese signals, environmental notes, and the latest edition of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading