Today’s collection of political, economic, and environmental news headlines — plus the latest from Fukushima — begins a a “mission accomplished” entry from the Associated Press:
Tea party losing races but tugging GOP rightward
Tuesday’s high-profile primary elections may extend a streak of sorts for tea party Republicans: losing individual races but winning the larger ideological war by tugging the GOP rightward.
Tea party-endorsed candidates are struggling in Georgia, Kentucky and Idaho.
In each state, “establishment” Republican candidates have emphasized their conservative credentials — thus narrowing the party’s philosophical differences.
Democrats say it’s happening elsewhere — and that the candidates trying to give Republicans control of the Senate will prove too far right for centrist voters in November.
From the London Daily Mail, via the Dept. Of Anything for a Buck:
‘To sell baubles I find quite shocking and repugnant’: Families of workers killed on 9/11 vent fury at new museum’s tacky gift shop which stands above tomb storing 8,000 unidentified body parts of victims
- The newly-opened National September 11 Memorial & Museum also features a gift shop
- Many victims’ families feel the idea of a gift shop, so close to their loved-ones’ remains, offensive
- Some 8,000 unidentified remains of victims were recently relocated to a tomb beneath the museum
- The museum opened to victims’ families and survivors on Thursday and will open for the general public on May 21
- Proceeds from the gift shop will go to ‘developing and sustaining’ the museum and memorial
From the Washington Post, consolidation of media continues:
AT&T, DirecTV announce $49 billion merger
AT&T announced Sunday that it was acquiring DirecTV in a $49 billion deal that would create a new telecom and television behemoth to rival cable firms — while raising fresh concerns about competition and options for consumers.
AT&T would gain DirecTV’s 20 million U.S. subscribers, a company with strong cash flows and an ability to fatten its bundle of offerings. The combined firm would be able to offer phone, high-speed Internet and pay-TV subscriptions to more customers — packages that cable firms such as Comcast have sold most successfully.
AT&T has agreed to acquire DirecTV for $95 a share, made up of $28.50 a share in cash and $66.50 a share in AT&T stock. AT&T says it expects to close the acquisition within 12 months.
More from the Department of Anything for a Buck from BuzzFeed:
New York To Keep Investments Linked To Russian Social Media Site Home to Neo-Nazi and Anti-Gay Groups
Coca Cola, McDonalds, and Burger King, keep advertising there, too.
LGBT activists have since February been pushing the city and state of New York to divest of holdings connected to the Russian social network VKontakte (VK) because it hosts the pages of hundreds of Neo-Nazi and anti-LGBT groups — but New York isn’t budging.
Duncan Obsorne, a member of LGBT rights protest group Queer Nation, told BuzzFeed the group met with both State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and City Comptroller Scott Stringer in April to discuss their holdings tied to VKontakte, which hosts hundreds of pages belonging to groups like Occupy Pedophilia, which entraps gay men to torture them on camera.
California’s state pension fund, CalPERS, responded to similar prodding from other LGBT activists and has sold $20 million shares in Mail.ru, which owns a 52 percent share of VKontakte and is owned by Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, the Financial Times reported Friday. Queer Nation helped CalPERS research and investigate material on VK that lead to the fund’s decision to divest.
More consolidatin’ from BBC News:
Pfizer in new offer for AstraZeneca takeover
US drugs giant Pfizer has made an improved offer for the UK’s AstraZeneca as it bids to tie up the largest takeover in British business history.
The new offer of £55 per share would value AstraZeneca at about £69bn.
Pfizer plans to create the world’s largest drug company, with its headquarters in New York, but based in the UK for tax purposes.
That plan has proved controversial with unions and politicians, with 6,700 UK jobs at stake.
Bankster alert from TheLocal.fr:
Goldman Sachs fears BNP Paribas guilty plea
The head of US bank Goldman Sachs has warned that guilty pleas from rivals BNP Paribas and Credit Suisse, under legal proceedings in the United States, could hurt the financial system.
The head of US bank Goldman Sachs has warned that guilty pleas from rivals BNP Paribas and Credit Suisse, under legal proceedings in the United States, could hurt the financial system.
The two European banks, under probes for violating US sanctions and abetting tax evasion, are potentially facing very heavy fines that could reach billions of dollars.
From the Guardian, hot times in the Golden State:
California governor links wildfire increase to climate change
- Jerry Brown predicts ‘worst’ wildfire season ever
- Last evacuees home after San Diego County fires
Drought-stricken California is preparing for its worst wildfire season ever, the state’s governor said on Sunday.
Governor Jerry Brown told ABC’s This Week that the nearly dozen wildfires that this week caused more than $20m in damage mark only the beginning. The state has 5,000 firefighters and has appropriated $600m to battling blazes, but that may not be enough.
“We’re getting ready for the worst,” Brown said. “Now, we don’t want to anticipate before we know, but we need a full complement of firefighting capacity.”
From PRI’s The World, driving away to cheaper pastures:
Toyota built Torrance into the second-largest home of Japanese Americans. Now, it’s leaving
When Toyota announced plans last month to move its US headquarters from Southern California to Texas, the announcement caught a lot of people off guard — particularly in the city of Torrance, Toyota’s American home for the past 30 years.
Torrance is just 20 miles southwest of Los Angeles and is quintessential suburbia — the kind of place people move to when they’re ready to raise their kids.
It’s long been overshadowed by its livelier neighbors, Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach.
From United Press International, scoldin’ students over Grinnin’ Bobby B:
Haverford College commencement speaker calls students ‘arrogant’ for protesting other speaker
Former Princeton President William G. Bowen called Haverford students “immature” and “arrogant” for protesting previously scheduled commencement speaker Robert J. Birgeneau.
Haverford College’s graduating class of 2014 got a slap on the wrist from their own commencement speaker on Sunday.
William G. Bowen, former president of Princeton, called students “immature” for protesting the original speaker, Robert J. Birgeneau, who bowed out last week.
Birgeneau, former chancellor at the University of California, Berkeley, faced criticism for his handling of the Occupy movement in 2011, when he allegedly allowed campus police to use force against protesters.
On to Europe and a brouhaha in Brussels via EurActiv:
Hundreds of protesters arrested in Brussels as business leaders debate ‘maintaining citizen’s trust’
240 people were arrested on Thursday (15 May) around the European Business Summit venue in Brussels during non-violent protests organised by trade unions and citizens’ groups.
The protestors had gathered to denounce the budgetary austerity policies in Europe, and the ongoing talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the USA, which they say is being negotiated “in total opacity”.
“Today multinationals are inviting political decision makers like the European trade commissioner Karel De Gucht and they are discussing putting more business in Europe,” said Felipe Van Keirsblick, the secretary general of the Belgian trade union for employees, the CNE-CNG.
From the Department of Mother Said Never Do It, via EurActiv:
EU secret revealed: Rome Treaty was signed on blank sheet
At the launch of a book on the history of the European Commission, officials revealed some of the best-kept secrets in EU history. Among them is the incredible story of the signing of the Treaty of Rome establishing the European Economic Community, on 1 January 1958.
José Manuel Barroso, the outgoing President of the European Commission, presented the second volume of a book Wednesday (14 May) telling the history of the Commission between 1973 and 1986.
The ceremony, hosted on the 13th floor of the Commission’s flagship Berlaymont building, gave Barroso the occasion to disclose unknown anecdotes, the most extraordinary of which regards the signature of the Treaty of Rome in 1957. The event was attended by many figures of post-war European integration history, including old-time surviving officials from the Commission such as Jean Rabier, born in 1919, the chief of staff of Jean Monnet, one of the “founding fathers” of Europe.
Britain next and a departure alert from EUobserver:
Brexit would be ‘very costly gamble’, warns think tank
Increased trade and regulatory costs would cost the UK economy up to 9.5 percent of its output if the UK left the European Union, according to new research by the London School of Economics.
The findings are contained in the ‘Brexit or Fixit’? report by researchers at the Centre for Economic Performance, which forms part of the university.
“Our current assessment is that leaving the EU would be likely to impose substantial costs on the UK economy and would be a very risky gamble,” the paper states.
The London Telegraph strives to tame a bubble:
Mortgages could be capped to control house prices, says Bank Governor
- The Bank of England could step in to curb mortgage lending amid fears Britain’s booming housing market risks threatening the economic recovery, says its Governor Mark Carney
People could be stopped taking out mortgages worth many times their salary to buy new homes, the Governor of the Bank of England has said.
Mark Carney said in an interview that capping the size of mortgage ratios to salaries was one measure the Bank was considering to controlling the housing market.
The Bank was also watching to see if the Government’s Help to Buy scheme – in which the Government gives people taxpayers money to cover deposits on new homes worth up to £600,000 – was fuelling them.
The Independent totes up another austerian cost:
Cuts send rates of mental health disorders among young soaring
Rising rates of mental health disorders among children are linked to council budget cuts and health restructurings that have denied vulnerable young people early help, the Children’s Commissioner has told MPs.
Maggie Atkinson, the Children’s Commissioner for England, said more children and young people with mental health problems were being admitted to adult psychiatric wards.
In written evidence to the Health Select Committee, which is holding an inquiry into the Children’s and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), she said: “It cannot be coincidental that the increasing concerns about child and adolescent mental health coincides with the biggest reconfiguration of health and social care services, reductions in preventative and early intervention budgets and local CAMHS budgets and therefore spending, in a generation.”
And over to Ireland, where concerns about mental health patients under the austerian regime have led one Irish hospital director to resign, reports Independent.ie:
Hospital’s clinical director resigns due to his concerns for ‘patient safety’
The clinical director of Beaumont Hospital has resigned citing his concerns for patient safety. Professor Shane O’Neill emailed his resignation to management on Friday.
In his role as clinical director, he was the hospital’s most senior doctor.
The Sunday Business Post reported Mr O’Neill’s previous correspondence with management, saying assessment of psychiatric patients in their busy accident and emergency department was “entirely unsafe”.
From Independent.ie, another diagnostic criterion of austerity on the Emerald Isle:
‘Tsunami of homelessness’ beyond crisis point, warns campaigner
Social justice campaigner Fr Peter McVerry has claimed the “tsunami of homelessness” is the worst he has ever seen.
He said that in his 40 years working with homeless people in Dublin, the housing shortage has never been as problematic as it is now and is being forced into turning people away due to a lack of capacity.
His charity – The Peter McVerry Trust – is struggling to cope with demand and says the problem is getting worse. “There are six new people becoming homeless every day and that’s the official figures. It may be more than that”.
German next, with a cash infusion from Reuters:
Deutsche Bank enlists Qatar in 8 billion-euro capital hike
Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) said on Sunday it would raise 8 billion euros in new capital, with the Qatari royal family lined up as a major new investor, in a bid by Germany’s largest bank to end questions about its capital position.
The bank had already raised 10.2 billion euros in equity in 2010 and a further 3 billion euros in 2013, but that had not been enough to assuage investor concerns about its capital position as if faces increased regulatory demands.
A stake worth 1.75 billion euros has already been placed with an investment vehicle owned and controlled by Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabor Al-Thani of Qatar, Deutsche Bank said in a statement. It plans to raise another 6.3 billion euros in a rights issue to existing shareholders.
Austerity in Germany, only at the bottom, via New Europe:
OECD: Germany needs more jobs, less poverty
A new report published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on May 13 calls on Germany to implement more measures aimed at reducing poverty.
According to the OECD, recent labour market reforms have increased the rate of unemployment and widened the social inequality gap.
“Germany’s current economic success offers a good platform for achieving sustainable and inclusive growth, but further reforms will be necessary over the medium and long-term,” the OECD reported.
On to Austria with New Europe and a boost for the right:
Austria: Populist Freedom Party strong in EU vote
Despite its Euroskeptic stance, the Freedom Party is only a few percentage points behind the Socialists and the conservative People’s Party in the May 25 race for EU Parliament seats. That’s in line with expectations of a generally strong showing of right-leaning populist parties in the EU parliamentary race.
But pollsters also say that if national elections were held now, the Freedom Party would actually win them, a stunning upset of the two establishment parties that have traditionally governed Austria.
The party’s popularity clearly reflects unhappiness with the status quo. And that’s hard to explain, when looking only at Austria’s metrics.
From Deutsche Welle, Swiss nix both guns and butter:
Swiss referendum turns down minimum wage and new fighter jets
Voters in Switzerland have rejected a proposal that would have introduced the world’s highest minimum wage. They also turned down a plan to buy more than twenty new fighter jets.
The vote count by Swiss TV showed some 77 percent of voters and 24 of the Alpine nation’s 26 cantons (states) rejecting the idea mooted by trade unions to create a minimum wage of 22 Swiss francs (20.22 euros, $24.70) per hour. Votes from the capital Bern and business center of Zurich are still to be announced.
Trade unions had argued the wage would be a way to fight poverty in a country known for its very high cost of living.
Business leaders had argued the minimum wage rate would cost jobs and erode economic competitiveness, driving Switzerland’s high costs even higher. The median hourly wage is about 33 francs (27 euros, $37) an hour.
From France, a chutzpah alert from TheLocal.fr:
French rogue trader demands to see Hollande
Rogue trader Jérôme Kerviel, facing a Sunday deadline to return to France to begin a three year prison term, has demanded an audience with President Francois Hollande.
Issuing a statement from the Italian border town of Ventimiglia, Kerviel said he wished to detail “all the serious failings” that led to his conviction after he brought one of Europe’s biggest banks to the brink of bankruptcy in 2008.
Aides to Hollande said Saturday they would consider a request from Kerviel for a presidential pardon over his role in the loss of nearly five billion euros through wildly risky trades.
From FRANCE 24, a belated act of resistance:
France extends veto power over foreign takeovers
The French government on Thursday changed its policy to increase the state’s influence in foreign buyouts and investment in key sectors, which will allow it to intervene in GE’s controversial bid for French giant Alstom.
The new rules will come into effect on Friday and cover the key sectors of energy, transport, water, health and telecoms.
“The choice we have made, along with the prime minister (Manuel Valls), is the choice of economic patriotism,” Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg told daily newspaper Le Monde.
Portugal next and an upgrade form New Europe:
Moody’s raises Portugal’s rating to Ba2
Portugal has received its first ratings upgrade since the sovereign-debt crisis pushed it into a €78 billion rescue programme in 2011.
Moody’s Investors Service said on 9 May it upgraded Portugal’s government bond rating to Ba2 from Ba3. In addition, the rating agency placed the Ba2 rating on review for possible further upgrade.
Moody’s said Portugal’s fiscal situation has improved more rapidly than initially targeted and the public debt ratio will start declining this year, albeit from a very high level. The budget deficit was reduced a full percentage point of GDP more than envisaged last year, indicating the government’s strong commitment to fiscal consolidation.
Off to Italy and a Bunga Bunga rebuke from Europe Online:
Ex wife lashes out at Berlusconi over unflattering tabloid shots
The ex-wife of Silvio Berlusconi on Sunday charged that following her divorce, she was being subjected to “miserable” hounding from a gossip magazine published by the family of the former Italian premier.
Earlier this month, Chi magazine printed unflattering paparazzi pictures of Veronica Lario, under the headline “The new life of Veronica.” It noted that she had “put on a bit of weight,” and asked plastic surgeons how they would operate on her.
“It hurts me that the weekly responsible for this miserable ambush belongs to my ex-husband,” the 57-year-old Lario said in a rare interview to Il Messaggero newspaper.
Next up, off to Eastern Europe with Sky News:
Balkans: Worst Floods In A Century Kill Dozens
Tens of thousands have fled their homes after Serbia and Bosnia experienced three months of rainfall in just three days.
The worst floods to hit the Balkans in more than a century have killed dozens, and there are fears that number could rise as a major river is set to be hit by a new flood wave this evening.
Tens of thousands have fled their homes in Bosnia and Serbia after three months of rain fell on the region in just three days. Thousands have also been evacuated in Croatia, where one person has died and two remain missing.
A video report form euronews:
Dozens dead, tens of thousands evacuated from Balkans flooding
The death toll continues to rise from the flooding in the Balkans. In central and western Serbia, the rains did start to ease and waters receded in some of the worst-hit areas on Sunday, May 18.
But essential services, like power stations, have been submerged. Serbia’s EPS power utility said fresh flooding is threatening the Nikola Tesla and Kostolac power plants in Obrenovac, 30 kilometres southwest of the capital, Belgrade. Kostolac currently supplies 20 percent of Serbia’s electricity needs.
From the Washington Post, a headline that could’ve gone in our companion compendium of headlines:
Russian President Putin builds ties in Moldova, Kazakhstan and Baltics
Vowing to defend ethnic Russians wherever they live, President Vladimir Putin has embarked on an aggressive campaign to rebuild the pride and assertiveness of the Russian people, which he says was lost in the breakup of the Soviet Union.
A week ahead of a presidential vote in Ukraine that will help determine that nation’s relationship with Russia, Putin has been devoting new power to redressing what he has called the historical tragedy that shattered the Soviet Union into 15 nations.
From annexing Crimea to collecting separatist petitions in Moldova to handing out passports to compatriots in the Baltics, Putin has spent recent weeks focused on neighboring countries, many of which have substantial ethnic Russian minorities.
After the jump, the latest from Greece, Cypriot relief, Ukrainian questions, Russian political moves, Turkish troubles, Iranian woes, African measures and countermeasures, Latin American troubles and deals, Thai turmoil, China slowdown signs, Abenomics in question, environmental woes, and the latest in Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading