Today’s headlines from the realms of politics, economics, and the environment is chock full of nuts, especially the sort whose greed imperils us all.
The Christian Science Monitor gives us the first of several headlines with warnings about the future of the Golden State, starting with an alarm about one the state’s most populous conservative county:
As California wildfire season looms, one county stands out as unprepared
San Diego stands out as “easily one of the least prepared [counties] in the entire country,” even though it is one of the most fire-prone regions of the state, says Richard Halsey, president of the California Chaparral Institute in Escondido.
Some blame county taxpayers for refusing to add fees that would boost local firefighting efforts. Others say political leaders have not provided taxpayers with a plan worth supporting.
With high temperatures and drought prevailing in California, the issue carries perhaps even more urgency than usual this summer. If new fires break out in San Diego, other areas of the state – and perhaps the country – might have to step in.
“San Diego County’s astonishing lack of professional firefighting units … means they are off-loading their responsibilities on other taxpayers across the state who pay to protect them and to protect them in landscapes that are fire-prone, fire-created,” says Char Miller, professor of environmental analysis at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif.
From Business Insider, fracking dreams evaporate, casting dark shadows on the dreams of California’s born again neoliberal chief executive:
California Is In An Extremely Awkward Position Now That The Government Says Most Of Its Shale Oil Is Unrecoverable
There now appears to be just 600 million barrels of recoverable tight oil in the state’s vast Monterey shale play — a downward revision of 96% from the agency’s 2011 estimate.
The state had pinned its hopes on a March 2013 USC study that argued tapping the Monterey could create up to 2.8 million jobs by 2020 and add up to $25 billion to state and local tax revenue. “Californians drive 332 billion, that’s billion miles a year, fed almost entirely by oil products, so we have got to start hammering at the demand, as well as the sources of fossil fuel,” California Governor Jerry Brown told CNN Sunday.
In September 2013, Brown — often labeled as having a thumb as green as Shrek’s — signed into law a bill that allowed the small-scale fracking that already occurs in to continue, with a view toward one day tapping what was thought to be Monterey’s vast and accessible deposits.
Brown’s office had no comment Wednesday.
From the San Francisco Chronicle, more signs of tough times ahead:
As Central Valley fog disappears, fruit, nut crops decline
The soupy thick tule fog that regularly blanketed the Central Valley and terrorized unsuspecting motorists during the winter has been slowly disappearing over the past three decades, a UC Berkeley study has found.
The blinding mists may not be missed by those who remember white-knuckle drives in zero visibility and regular multiple-car pileups, but the fog dearth is bad news for farmers, according to a study published this month in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
“It is jeopardizing fruit growing in California,” said Dennis Baldocchi, a biometeorologist at UC Berkeley and lead author of the study. “We’re getting much lower yields.”
From the Oakland Tribune, standing up to Obama’s anti-immigrant agenda:
East Bay sheriffs to release immigrants held for feds
Joining a national trend of resisting the Obama administration’s deportation dragnet, the sheriffs of Alameda and Contra Costa counties said they are immediately releasing all inmates whose sole reason for being held is their immigration status.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement makes about 1,000 requests to Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail each year to hand over immigrants arrested on other charges and suspected of being in the country illegally, but “now we won’t be honoring any of them,” Sheriff Greg Ahern said in an interview Wednesday. “We’re not going to be honoring the ICE holds unless they’re backed by the order of a judge.”
Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston said Wednesday he implemented an identical order last week. San Mateo County Sheriff Greg Munks is contemplating a similar policy but plans to allow for case-by-case exceptions for immigrants who “pose significant public safety risks.”
From the Los Angeles Times, a legal revolt:
Counties sue narcotics makers, alleging ‘campaign of deception’
Two California counties sued five of the world’s largest narcotics manufacturers on Wednesday, accusing the companies of causing the nation’s prescription drug epidemic by waging a “campaign of deception” aimed at boosting sales of potent painkillers such as OxyContin.
Officials from Orange and Santa Clara counties — both hit hard by overdose deaths, emergency room visits and escalating medical costs associated with prescription narcotics — contend the drug makers violated California laws against false advertising, unfair business practices and creating a public nuisance.
In sweeping language reminiscent of the legal attack against the tobacco industry, the lawsuit alleges the drug companies have reaped blockbuster profits by manipulating doctors into believing the benefits of narcotic painkillers outweighed the risks, despite “a wealth of scientific evidence to the contrary.” The effort “opened the floodgates” for such drugs and “the result has been catastrophic,” the lawsuit contends.
BBC News hauls out the chopper:
Hewlett-Packard to cut up to 16,000 more jobs
Technology giant Hewlett-Packard (HP) announced an 18% rise in profits to $1.3bn for the second quarter in statement that was accidently released before US stock markets closed.
But the firm said that despite rising profits, it plans to lay off an additional 11,000 to 16,000 workers. HP had previously announced it would cut 34,000 jobs as part of a restructuring announced in 2012.
Shares in HP fell after the early release of the news.
Hypocrisy between the buns, via the Guardian:
McDonald’s CEO insists fast-food giant pays ‘fair wages’ as protesters rally
- Demonstrators stage second day of protest as chief executive Don Thompson sees off shareholder vote on $9.5m pay package
McDonald’s offers “real careers” and “competitive wages”, CEO Don Thompson told shareholders on Thursday, as hundreds of protesters chanted for better pay outside the fast-food giant’s annual meeting.
As demonstrators staged a second day of protests against the company’s wage scale outside the company’s suburban Chicago headquarters, Thompson told shareholders: “We believe we pay fair and competitive wages.”
“I know we have people outside,” said Thompson. “I think that McDonald’s provides more opportunity than any other company … We continue to believe that we pay fair and competitive wages,” he said.
A thoroughly tamed electorate, via EUbusiness:
Muted US opposition to Atlantic trade treaty
Europeans have met US-EU negotiations for an ambitious transatlantic free trade zone with a wave of open hostility, but in the United States, the opposition has been muted.
Only a handful of opponents could be seen Wednesday as officials from both sides met this week for the fifth round of negotiations in Arlington, Virginia, just outside Washington.
“The more we learn about this agreement the more we understand why the US and the EU are holding its contents so close to the vest,” said Ilana Solomon of the environmental group Sierra Club.
Like in Europe, fears have mounted among US activists over the broad scope of liberalization under the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which will cover rules on investment, trade, agriculture, health and the environment.
The worries, though, have not carried far outside a small circle of civil society activists, even though the talks have been going on for nearly a year.
From Inside Criminal Justice, something we could’ve told ‘em, having done a major bookie investigation years ago:
Study: Organized Crime Launders Billions Through Bets
Organized crime operations use sports betting as a tool for laundering $140 billion worldwide each year, according to a new study by Paris’ Pantheon-Sorbonne University and the Qatar-based International Center for Sport Security.
The review of global sports gambling scandals during the last three years found that soccer is by far the most frequently corrupted sport.
As the Internet spread during the last two decades, the gambling industry has boomed, according to the report, and regulatory agencies have been unable to keep pace.
From ANSAmed, neoliberals greasing skids for the race to the bottom:
UAE: the World Free Zones Organization (WFZO) is born
- New 14-member body to oversee free-trade zones around the globe
The brand-new World Free Zones Organization (WFZO), a multinational body with 14 founding member countries, was inaugurated in Dubai ceremony at the weekend.
Representing free-trade zones in Africa, China, Europe, Latin America, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States, the WFZO aims to standardize their business methods and analytical parameters, making them available to members, governments, businesses, and analysts.
‘’It is a platform for debating issues in common and for learning from mutual experience’‘, explained WFZO Chairman Mohammed al-Zarooni.
On to Europe, starting with election news from EUobserver:
EU elections under way in Netherlands and UK
The 2014 EU elections got under way in The Netherlands and in the UK on Thursday (22 May), with Dutch voters starting at 7.30am local time and British voters at 8am British time.
The results will not be available until Sunday night – to be published at the same moment as pan-EU numbers, so that the outcome in early member states does not influence voting in latecomers.
But Dutch exit polls are expected already at 9pm on Thursday evening.
From the London Telegraph, allegations of suicide by currency, via the European Monetary Union [EMU]:
Europe’s centre crumbles as Socialists immolate themselves on altar of EMU
- Francois Hollande must be willing to rock the European Project to its foundations, and even to risk a rupture of the euro. This he cannot bring himself to do
By a horrible twist of fate, Europe’s political Left has become the enforcer of reactionary economic policies. The great socialist parties of the post-war era have been trapped by the corrosive dynamics of monetary union, apologists for mass unemployment and a 1930s deflationary regime that subtly favour the interests of elites.
One by one, they are paying the price. The Dutch Labour Party that fathered the “Polder Model” and ran Holland for half a century has lost its bastions of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht, its support dwindling to 10pc as it meekly ratifies austerity policies that have led to debt deflation and left 25pc of mortgages in negative equity.
Contractionary policies are poisonous for countries leveraged to the hilt. Dutch household debt has risen from 230pc to 250pc of disposable income since 2008, while British debt has fallen from 151pc to 133pc over the same period. This calamitous development in the Netherlands is almost entirely result of the EMU policy structure, yet the Dutch Labour Party has no coherent critique because its pro-EU reflexes compel near-silence.
CNNMoney casts a different slant:
Europe’s own ‘tea party’ risk
Europe has enjoyed a period of calm after years of crisis, but a predicted big protest vote in regional elections this week could shake markets out of their complacency.
Polls open Thursday for voters to elect members of the European Parliament, representing 500 million citizens. They’re expected to back protest parties of right and left in greater numbers than ever before.
A backlash against austerity, unemployment, immigration and loss of national power to European institutions could push anti-EU parties to win about 25% of the 751 seats. In some of the 28 countries, they could even secure the biggest share of the vote.
While that won’t derail the region’s recovery in the near term, it could store up future trouble by destabilizing pro-EU governments in some countries and weakening the resolve of others to stick to painful economic reforms.
On to Britain and some fracktastic news from the London Telegraph:
Fracking planned for Tory heartlands as report reveals billions of barrels of shale oil in southern England
- Report to show vast potential for shale oil in the South as ministers unveil planned law change to allow fracking under homes without owners’ permission
Vast areas of southern England will on Friday be identified by the Government as targets for fracking, with ministers also announcing that energy companies will be allowed to frack under homes without owners’ permission.
A British Geological Survey study of the South, spanning from Wiltshire to Kent and including the South Downs National Park, will be published, mapping out the likely location of billions of barrels of shale oil.
Ministers are also preparing to publish controversial plans to change the laws of trespass to give energy companies an automatic right to frack beneath homes and private land – even if owners object.
Norway next, and bad news for cetaceans from TheLocal.no:
Norway to ‘work harder’ to sell whale to Japan
Norway’s fishing minister has pledged to work harder to restart exports of whale meat to Japan, after one of the country’s leading chroniclers of the whaling industry warned that it could die out within ten years.
“We have Japan as a potential export country,” Elisabeth Aspaker told Norway’s NRK channel. “We must see if we can work harder to promote it.”
Frank A. Jenssen, a journalist and author who has written extensively on whaling, told NRK that the industry and the communities which depend on it were in crisis.
“At worst, if it does not become easier to sell whale meat, I fear that this tradition and industry will die out,” he told the television channel. “In about ten to 15 years, there may be no whalers left in Norway, and that would be a tragedy.”
Early Dutech electoral indications from euronews:
Wilders’ anti-EU party pushed to fourth place in Netherlands exit polls
Exit polls in the Netherlands indicate that the anti-EU Freedom Party (PVV) of Geert Wilders has come fourth in elections for the European Parliament.
Dutch public television reported that the party who had been leading opinion polls for months may have failed to secure second place, gaining around 12% of the vote trailing the Christian Democrats and the social-liberal D66 parties who were competing for the top spot.
Germany next, and creeping imperialism from New Europe:
German cabinet adopts new Africa strategy
- In February, Germany’s parliament approved boosting the country’s troop presence in Mali
The German cabinet has adopted a new Africa strategy, showing willingness for a greater German involvement in Africa, German media N-TV reported on Wednesday.
In the new Africa policy, Germany’s ruling coalition government expressed willingness to help prevent armed conflicts on the continent at an early stage in the future.
In addition to training missions, which would help African countries solve crisis more independently, Germany said it was also ready to send more troops to Africa if necessary.
France next, and tough times for Franky the Fop from Al Jazeera English:
France’s left is through with Hollande
- Angered by austerity and economic stagnation, fewer than one in five French approve of the Socialist president.
French civil servants’ salaries have not been reassessed since July 2010. The freeze, which began under the right-wing government of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, is now part of the left-wing government’s plan to cut public spending and boost economic growth.
According to the national statistics agency INSEE, the French economy stagnated in the first quarter of 2014, with zero growth between January and March. “It doesn’t matter,” said French Finance Minister Michel Sapin on Thursday. “The [growth] forecast by the IMF for France is one percent, so we’re dealing with figures that are perfectly reasonable goals.”
Sapin added that he was confident that the overall growth in 2014 would be “clearly above zero”, although admitted it “will not be enough”. With growth so weak and the unemployment rate and budget deficit so high, the government has no plans to increase the wages of civil servants in the near future.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that without any clear sign of growth, the pay freeze will continue until 2017. “The efforts required must be fair and equitably distributed among all the French,” he said in a letter addressed to the unions on Tuesday.
Next, Deutsche Welle covers a comeback strategy from his predecessor:
France’s Sarkozy urges two-speed Europe and a different migration policy
- Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called for big changes to EU structures, calling the idea of Eurozone economies’ equal rights a “myth”. He also lashed out at the EU’s current migration policies.
On Thursday, Nicolas Sarkozy weighed into the European Parliament election campaign by pressing for changes to the 28-member bloc’s structure.
The conservative former French leader, who is widely expected to seek re-election in 2017, argued for a profound overhaul of EU institutions in an editorial for the weekly news magazine Le Point.
He called the idea of all eurozone nations being of equal weight a “myth”, and proposed the creation of a large Franco-German economic zone at the heart of the euro area to reflect what he called a “two-speed Europe.”
From TheLocal.fr, out of sight, out of mind?:
French cops to bulldoze Calais migrant camps
Police in northern France plan to dismantle a series of improvised migrant camps, including one dubbed the “Syrian Camp”, after an outbreak of scabies. It’s part of the ongoing tension in the city of Calais where thousands of immigrants have massed with hopes of reaching the UK.
Social workers were outraged on Thursday following an announcement from the top police authority in Calais, in northern France, several migrant camps would be cleared from the town’s port by “next week”.
Following a meeting with humanitarian groups on Wednesday local Prefect Denis Robin told reporters: “I’m going to close three camps on public property at the port next week. It is out of the question that we encourage the setting up of a jungle.”
From the Guardian, a new supergrass:
Camorra mafia ‘super boss’ Antonio Iovine turns state witness
- One of four bosses of Casalesi clan within Camorra mafia is collaborating with investigators in Naples, Italian media says
A so-called super boss of a powerful clan within the Camorra mafia has turned state witness and is collaborating with investigators in Naples, Italian media reported on Thursday.
Antonio Iovine, one of the four bosses of the infamous Casalesi clan, started answering the questions of anti-mafia prosecutors earlier this month, La Repubblica wrote. The Naples daily Il Mattino declared it “a historic choice”.
Aged 49, but known to all as o’ninno (the baby) for his youthful face and his rapid ascent of the Casalesi power structure, Iovine is thought to have effectively led the business side of the clan’s activities before his arrest in 2010 and subsequent jailing for life.
Reactions from the Independent:
Mobster turned informant Antonio Iovine sends shockwaves through Naples’ crime families
The decision by one of the Camorra’s most senior figures to turn informant has sent shockwaves through the Naples crime syndicate.
The jailed mobster, Antonio Iovine, dubbed the Camorra’s “economy minister”, is now spilling the secrets of the brutal mafia group, it was reported today. And not only clan members are risk; now that “the first real boss” of the crime group has decided to cooperate with the authorities, “an entire generation” of mafia associates risks being “swept away”, according to La Repubblica newspaper.
The Camorra’s accomplices are thought to include crooked politicians, civil servants and businessmen, who collude with its moneyspinning activities including illegal dumping, extortion, drug running and prostitution. Iovine was captured in November 2010 after 14 years on the run. But the first real breakthrough in getting the mafia boss to talk occurred within the past two weeks. With prosecutors Antonello Ardituro and Caesar Sirignano having applied careful pressure over a period of three years, Iovine finally cracked and began giving page after page of verbal evidence.
TheLocal.it calls for lighting up:
Rome mayor backs decriminalizing cannabis
Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino on Wednesday said he was in favour of decriminalizing cannabis, calling for a national and international reform on drug laws in order to fight organized crime.
The city mayor said he was “in favour of the possibility of the liberalization of cannabis for medical or personal use.” He was speaking at the Eighth Annual Conference of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy in Rome.
Beyond the capital he also advocated broader reform of drug laws both in Italy and abroad.
“Decriminalization of marijuana must be considered a starting point, because years of prohibition have brought no results in the prevention of a dramatic increase in drug use,” Marino was quoted in Il Messaggero as saying.
From ANSA.it, real GDP:
Economic value of prostitution in 2014 GDP accounts
- Statistical agency to measure illegal drugs, cigarettes
The economic value of prostitution, illegal drug sales, and trafficking in contraband cigarettes and alcohol will all be measured by Italy’s national statistical agency Istat as it calculates the country’s 2014 gross domestic production (GDP), it announced Thursday.
Istat said that starting in September, its 2014 economic measurements will include those three areas of illegal activities, in line with methodology being applied in measuring national accounts within the European Union.
The move updates the previous system of national account measures implemented in 1995, Istat said in a news release. Eurostat, the EU’s statistical agency, has provided guidelines that will include an estimate of accounts for illegal activities including prostitution, contraband cigarettes and alcohol, and illegal drug trafficking.
From TheLocal.it, woes for Bunga Bunga Junior:
Prosecutors seek jail term for Berlusconi’s son
Prosecutors in Milan have asked for Silvio Berlusconi’s elder son, Pier Silvio, to be sentenced to three years and two months in jail for alleged tax fraud at the family’s Mediaset empire.
Prosecutors Fabio De Pasquale and Sergio Spadaro are also seeking a three year and two month jail term for Fedele Confalonieri, Mediaset’s chairman, for his alleged involvement in the financial wrongdoing that relates to the trading of TV rights at the company’s subsidiary, Mediatrade, the Italian edition of Huffington Post reported.
The men are accused of tax fraud amounting to millions of euros in 2003 and 2004, when the telemarketing unit was based in Milan.
Striking news from TheLocal.it:
Italy’s newsstands set to empty as strike hits
A national strike of printing press workers on Thursday, prompted by a row over pensions, will see newsstands across the country emptied of newspapers on Friday.
Ink ran dry at Italy’s printing presses on Thursday, as labour unions united to force newspapers to temporarily run out of print. As a result none of Italy’s daily newspapers, such as La Repubblica and La Stampa, will be published on Friday, Italian media reported.
According to unions the government has failed to protect industry workers who were left without a pension following reforms in 2012, the newspaper said
After the jump, the latest from Greece [including campaign news], Russian sanctions beneficiaries, more Brazilian pre-World Cup blues, Thai coup consolidation, more Chinese bubble warnings, Sony fine tunes, environmental disasters, and the latest from Fukushimapocalypose Now!. . . Continue reading