And so much, much more, including the latest edition of Fukushimapocalypse Now! In today’s collection from the realms of political, law, economics, and the environment.
First up, a slowdown on the road to another skid-greasing for corporocrats and banksters from Kyodo News:
TPP ministers fail to set timeline for striking deal
Ministers in the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks fell short of setting a clear timeline for ending their long-running negotiations as they wrapped up their two-day meeting Tuesday in Singapore, although they stressed that progress has been made on tariff issues.
“We cemented our shared views on what is needed to bring negotiations to a close,” the ministers said in a joint statement issued following the meeting, but it was unclear what outcome was yielded during their gathering.
The ministers did decide that the chief negotiators from the member countries will meet in July to further accelerate talks but they did not clarify where the meeting will be held.
Money launderers get the ticket, via Reuters:
Credit Suisse fined $2.5 billion after pleading guilty to U.S. tax charge
Credit Suisse has agreed to pay a $2.5 billion fine to authorities in the United States for helping Americans evade taxes after becoming the largest bank in 20 years to plead guilty to a U.S. criminal charge.
The bank’s guilty plea resolves its long-running dispute with the United States over tax evasion, but could have implications for the clients and counterparties that do business with the group.
Credit Suisse said it had not seen a material impact in the past few weeks on its business, and that clients faced no legal obstacles from doing business with it despite the guilty plea.
Other banksters/other woes, from the Irish Times:
Drumm facing litany of fraud allegations at bankruptcy trial
- Document detailing dozens of allegations against former Anglo boss submitted to US court
Former Anglo Irish Bank chief executive David Drum will face a litany of fraud and perjury allegations when his bankruptcy trial begins in Boston tomorrow.
A list of “itemised allegations” against the 47-year-old Dubliner, which include accusations of fraud, concealment and lying under oath, has been submitted to the court where he filed for bankruptcy in 2010.
The document was submitted by the plaintiffs in the trial, bankruptcy trustee Kathleen Dwyer, and the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, his former employer.
From iMediaEthic, without comment:
Nat’l Journal dumps comments section after ‘worst kind of abusive, racist, and sexist name-calling imaginable’
The National Journal is getting rid of most online comments because it has been filled with “the worst kind of abusive, racist, and sexist name-calling imaginable.”
National Journal’s editor-in-chief Tim Grieve announced the decision in a May 16 post, explaining that there was no civil discussion on topics and it was getting worse.
“The debate isn’t joined. It’s cheapened, it’s debased, and, as National Journal’s Brian Resnick has written, research suggests that the experience leaves readers feeling more polarized and less willing to listen to opposing views,” Grieve wrote.
From China Daily, a float from abroad:
More Chinese companies choose US as destination to go public
A senior vice president with NYSE Euronex says that more and more Chinese enterprises are attracted to do initial public offering (IPO) in the United States and predicts that around 15 to 20 of them could go public in the States this year.
“What I’ve seen is a nice building process from two years ago when we only had two IPOs. One of them, VIP (Vipshop Holdings Limited), was listed here and did extremely well,” said David A. Ethridge, senior vice president and head of the Capital Markets Group at NYSE Euronext, in a recent interview with Xinhua.
Shares of Vipshop, an online discount retailer, were traded at around $165 per share Monday, compared to $6.50 per share since it announced its IPO in March 2012. China’s social gaming portal YY Inc, which was listed on Nasdaq in November 2012, also saw its shares surge to around $56 per share from its IPO price of $10.50 apiece.
From the Asbury Park Press via USA TODAY, maybe retirees will have to get a bridge loan:
Gov. Christie cuts N.J. pension payments
Gov. Chris Christie is slashing the contributions scheduled to be made to New Jersey public workers’ pension funds by nearly $2.5 billion over the next 14 months to deal with a revenue shortfall facing the state budget.
Christie announced today at the Statehouse that he will make a $696 million payment into the pension funds this year, rather than $1.58 billion. He said he will put in $681 million next June, instead of the $2.25 billion that would have been made if the terms of the pension reforms he signed into law in 2011 were followed.
Christie said the payments cover the costs accrued during his administration for active employees but exclude the unfunded liability accrued under past governors and legislatures. He said that means the unfunded liability for active workers will not increase.
From Network World, corporations benefits, public services lose. Call it a neoliberal wet dream:
Driverless cars could cripple law enforcement budgets
- Local government have long looked to speeding tickets to increase revenue. What will they do when autonomous cars stick to the speed limit?
Shortly after the state of Washington voted to legalize recreational marijuana late last year, opponents made a very interesting, if somewhat counterintuitive, argument against legalized pot – law enforcement would miss out on the huge revenue stream of seized assets, property, and cash from pot dealers in the state.
Justice Department data shows that seizures in marijuana-related cases nationwide totaled $1 billion from 2002 to 2012, out of the $6.5 billion total seized in all drug busts over that period. This money often goes directly into the budgets of the law enforcement agencies that seized it. One drug task force in Snohomish County, Washington, reduced its budget forecast by 15% after the state voted to legalize marijuana, the Wall Street Journal reported in January. In its most fruitful years, that lone task force had seen more than $1 million in additional funding through seizures from marijuana cases alone, according to the report.
Naturally, this dynamic is something law enforcement either is or should already be preparing for as driverless cars make their way onto the roads. Just as drug cops will lose the income they had seized from pot dealers, state and local governments will need to account for a drastic reduction in fines from traffic violations as autonomous cars stick to the speed limit.
From the Associated Press, gladiator-doping alleged:
Ex-players: NFL illegally used drugs
A group of retired NFL players says in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that the league, thirsty for profits, illegally supplied them with risky narcotics and other painkillers that numbed their injuries for games and led to medical complications down the road.
The league obtained and administered the drugs illegally, without prescriptions and without warning players of their potential side effects, to speed the return of injured players to the field and maximize profits, the lawsuit alleges. Players say they were never told about broken legs and ankles and instead were fed pills to mask the pain. One says that instead of surgery, he was given anti-inflammatories and skipped practices so he could play in money-making games. And others say that after years of free pills from the NFL, they retired from the league addicted to the painkillers.
Steven Silverman, attorney for the players, said the complaint was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, and a copy was shared with The Associated Press ahead of the filing.
The complaint names eight players, including three members of the Super Bowl champion 1985 Chicago Bears: Hall of Fame defensive end Richard Dent, offensive lineman Keith Van Horne, and quarterback Jim McMahon. Lawyers seek class-action status, and they say in the filing that more than 400 other former players have signed on to the lawsuit.
From the San Francisco Chronicle, both a story and a metaphor for our times:
Train hits, kills woman wearing earphones in San Leandro
An 18-year-old woman using earphones while talking on her cell phone was struck and killed Monday by an Amtrak train in San Leandro after a witness tried unsuccessfully to warn her of its approach, police said.
On a similar vein, from north of the border via CBC News:
Physical inactivity of Canadian kids blamed on ‘culture of convenience’
- Parents encouraged to weave opportunities to move and play with their kids into daily life
Canada’s “culture of convenience” means children and youth sit too much and move too little, in gym class, on the playground, and while travelling to and from school, according to a new global comparison.
Tuesday’s report, “Is Canada in the running?”, from Active Healthy Kids Canada grades kids from 15 countries on their physical activity levels in various areas.
Europe next, and the usual suspects, doing the usual via BBC News:
JPMorgan, HSBC and Credit Agricole accused of euro rate-fixes
The European Commission has accuses JPMorgan, HSBC and Credit Agricole of colluding to fix a key euro benchmark borrowing rate – Euribor.
JP Morgan and HSBC will fight the charges. Credit Agricole will study the European Commission’s findings. Penalties for the guilty are up to 10% of annual revenue.
Euribor is a cousin to Libor, which is used to set trillions of dollars of financial contracts from complex financial transactions to car loans.
And the electoral divide, with more to come next weekend, via EUbusiness:
Conservatives narrowly lead Socialists in EU vote: poll
Conservatives across Europe hold a narrow lead over their Socialist rivals in the upcoming European Parliament elections but eurosceptics and more radical parties will make significant gains, a poll showed Tuesday.
The PollWatch2014 survey issued as EU citizens prepare for the May 22-25 ballot put the conservative European People’s Party (EPP) on 217 seats against 201 for the Socialists and Democrats (S&D).
While that would leave them still the two biggest parties in the new 751-seat assembly, the EPP would be down from 274 seats and the S&D up only marginally from the previous 196.
In third place, the centrist Liberals (ALDE) would fare especially badly, falling to 59 seats from the current 83, PollWatch2014 said.
A predictable alarm, via Greek Reporter:
Credit Agricole: SYRIZA’s Victory May Cause Shock to EU markets
According to Bloomberg news agency, Mark McCormick, a currency strategist at the French Credit Agricole, sent a to the bank’s clients, stating that a possible victory of SYRIZA in the euro elections might cause a shock to the European markets.
McCormick claimed that a possible victory by SYRIZA can cause a shock to Europe’s assets (bonds, equities, interest bearing securities, etc.) at a time when Greece is trying to implement reforms.
McCormick, according to Bloomberg, stated that the European elections should not be underestimated given that their results will have an impact on the above-mentioned assets.The increasing popularity of anti-European parties constitutes a threat to the progress that has been achieved in financial reforms. The greatest danger lies in Greece, which could be led to early elections if the Greek main opposition party wins a majority in the European elections.
And the lobbying will commence, via EurActiv:
Google cannot be broken up without new legislation, says EU Competition Commissioner
Google cannot be broken up into smaller companies without new EU legislation, the European Commission said today (20 May), after detailing two potential new antitrust investigations into the internet giant.
Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia was responding to comments made earlier this week by German’s Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who said Google may have such a dominant market position that a break-up had to be “seriously considered.” Existing competition law was not powerful enough to split up the business, Almunia said.
The California-based company may yet face a separate antitrust investigation to the one ongoing since November 2012. Open Internet Project, a group of 400 European digital market members, made a different complaint [PDF] on Friday.
Britain next, and the bubble continues with BBC News:
UK house prices up 8% in a year, says ONS
UK house prices rose by 8% in the year to the end of March, official figures show, as the prime minister says he will consider changes to Help to Buy.
The annual increase slowed compared with a 9.2% year-on-year price rise to the end of February.
However, the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that the annual property price increase in London stood at 17%. Excluding London and the South East of England, prices were up by 4.7%.
On a related front, via the London Telegraph:
Lloyds acts to curb ‘inflationary’ London housing
- UK’s biggest mortgage provider, which also owns Halifax, will not lend any more than four times those of incomes on properties over £500,000
The UK’s biggest mortgage provider, Lloyds Banking Group, has taken radical action in the face of what it called “inflationary pressures” in London’s housing market, tightening up the requirements for high-value property purchases.
The state-backed lender said that on lending of over £500,000, it would not approve mortgages in which consumers are borrowing more than four times their incomes.
The announcement is the first major step taken by lenders to cool rapidly-rising house prices in the capital, where prices have risen by 17pc in the last year – more than double the national average. Lloyds said the policy would be applied nationally, but was deliberately targeted at London.
On to Germany and the predictable, via TheLocal.de:
‘Germany can deny foreigners benefits’
Germany can refuse to give unemployment benefit to EU citizens it believes are “welfare tourists”, according to a European ruling on Tuesday.
The advocate general of the European Court of Justice said the state could reject applications for German unemployment benefit Hartz IV from foreigners from other EU countries to prevent abuse of the system and “welfare tourism”.
The Luxembourg court will make its ruling over the next few months, but normally follows the advocate general’s advice.
The decision was made in a high-profile case of a 24-year-old Romanian woman and her son who have lived in Germany since 2010. The woman’s local job centre in Leipzig refused to give her Hartz IV, prompting her to take legal action.
And from Deutsche Welle:
Migration to Germany skyrockets
The sovereign debt crisis is driving a surge in migration to Germany. New figures reveal hundreds of thousands of foreign workers flocked to Europe’s largest economy in 2012 – a nearly 40 percent jump in just a year.
The number of people migrating to Germany jumped nearly 40 percent in a year, according to data released Tuesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a coalition of mostly developed nations.
Driven mainly by economic uncertainty in the euro zone’s periphery, which includes weaker nations that are still recovering from the global financial crisis, some 400,000 people flocked to Germany in 2012, the latest year for which figures were available.
“We can clearly speak about a boom of migration to Germany without exaggeration,” Thomas Liebig, an OECD migration expert, said as the group released its latest migration outlook just days ahead of European elections in which immigration has been hotly debated.
More from Reuters:
Germany becomes world’s top migration spot after U.S.: OECD
Germany has become the world’s second most popular destination for immigrants after the United States, attracting many southern Europeans driven from the ravages of the euro zone financial crisis to overtake Canada and Australia.
Germany soared to second place in the 2012 in a survey of permanent migration published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on Tuesday. It ranked eighth in 2009.
“This really is a boom – without any exaggeration … no other OECD country experienced such a rise,” said Thomas Liebig, an expert on international migration at the Paris-based OECD.
Vienna next, and just say Nein!?, From TheLocal.at:
Vienna mayor wants right wing group banned
Vienna’s Mayor Michael Häupl (SPÖ) has called for a ban on a right wing group calling themselves Die Identitaere Bewegung (The Identity Movement).
Last Saturday a march by the group in central Vienna resulted in clashes between protesters and police after it was obstructed several times by a left-wing counter-demonstration.
“A group like this should have been banned a long time ago,” Häupl said at his weekly press conference. “This is a neo-fascist organization that quite clearly falls under the prohibition act,” he added.
The Verbotsgesetz (Prohibition Act) is an Austrian law which banned the Nazi Party and aimed to suppress any potential revival of Nazism.
While parts of Spain face unparalleled drought, at the other end of Europe with euronews:
Bosnia flood destruction ‘as bad as the war’
The government in Bosnia says more than 1 million people, or a quarter of the population, has been affected by flooding and landslides, comparing the destruction to that of the country’s war in the 1990s.
Some reports speak of around 50 deaths in Bosnia and in neighbouring Serbia and Croatia amid the worst rainfall to hit the Balkans in living memory.
Having survived the war and built a new life, many have lost everything.
Spain next, whipping up the religious for a neoliberal advantage with El País:
Abortion clinics report spike in vandalism
- Anti-abortion activists step up pressure ahead of government changes to legislation
Anti-abortion groups are getting more radical in their rhetoric and in their actions.
In the face of government delays, these groups have been making increasingly vocal demands for legislative reform to curtail access to pregnancy terminations.
But now, abortion clinics are also reporting several instances of vandalism against their premises, according to formal complaints to which EL PAÍS has had access.
El País again, this time weith another outburst of that hard times intolerance:
Racist gestures at soccer game cost Barcelona employee her job
- Llagostera fan also barred from her team’s stadium for performing monkey actions at black player
A woman has lost her job and been barred from a soccer stadium for life after she was caught on camera making racist gestures at a Spanish second division game between Llagostera and Racing Santander on Sunday.
Video footage of the match clearly shows the Llagostera fan making monkey actions at Mamadou Koné, a black player from the Ivory Coast who plays for Racing.
The images immediately spread around the social networks, and the consequences soon followed. Llagostera president Isabel Tarragó has barred the woman, who is not a club member, from ever returning to its stadium.
El País again, with more:
Jewish community to file complaint after anti-Semitic tweets posted from Spain
- Offensive comments appeared on Twitter after basketball team Maccabi Tel Aviv beat Real Madrid
- The victory on Sunday saw the Israeli side win the Euroleague title
The Jewish community in the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia has taken action over anti-Semitic messages posted on social networking sites after Israeli basketball team Maccabi Tel Aviv beat Real Madrid to win the Euroleague title on Sunday.
After the game in Tel Aviv was over, nearly 18,000 offensive messages appeared on Twitter, according to Jewish associations, which have announced they are planning to file a complaint with the state attorney on Tuesday. According to sources from the Jewish community, the complaint will include tweets from five users of the micro-blogging site – along with their full names – which, the complainants will argue, constitute incitement of hatred against Jews.
Portugal next, and a Troikarch release from ANSAmed:
Portugal officially out of Troika bailout plan
- Without seeking precautionary credit line, premier says
Portugal officially exited on Monday the bailout programme drafted by the Troika (EU-ECB-IMF) under which it obtained in 2011 a loan worth 79 billion euros provided it implemented a number of austerity measures to cut expenditure.
Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho announced the country will ‘’not seek further security measures, although the road ahead is still long to get out of the crisis’‘.
The premier added that ‘’the government’s priorities are economic and employment recovery’‘.
Italy next, starting with Bunga Bunga bloviation from TheLocal.it:
‘Did you call Merkel an ‘unf**kable lard-arse’?’
Jeremy Paxman, the BBC’s hard-nosed interviewer, asked Italy’s gaffe-prone former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi whether he called German Chancellor Angela Merkel an “unf**kable lard-arse” in an interview that will be aired on Tuesday night.
Berlusconi, who is currently undertaking community service at a home for Alzheimer’s patients for his tax fraud conviction, reportedly said Merkel was a “culona inchiavabile” (unf**kable lard-arse) during a wiretapped conversation with a man accused of supplying prostitutes to the former prime minister’s “bunga bunga” parties in July 2011.
More bloviatin’ from the Bunga Bunghole via ANSA:
Berlusconi calls Grillo a ‘killer’
Vitriol escalates with reference to manslaughter conviction
Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday called Beppe Grillo, the leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), a “killer” as the political venom ahead of Sunday’s European elections reached a new high. Berlusconi was referring to Grillo’s 1980 manslaughter conviction for a car accident in which he was the driver and three people died.
Grillo has never stood personally in elections because he says people with criminal records should not be in parliament, although he is still the undisputed leader of the M5S from outside the buildings of power.
The comedian-turned-politician has been brutally critical of three-time premier Berlusconi, who was ejected from parliament last year and is currently doing community after a definitive tax-fraud conviction last year, over his many judicial problems.
After the jump, it’s on to Greece and more electoral mayhem, a Ukrainian pullback, Brazilian jitters and an Argentine memory hole, a case of Thai anxiety, Chinese real estate woes, environmental alarms, and Fukushuimapocalypse Now!. . .