Straight into it, starting at home with an offering from Reuters:
Weaker U.S. personal earnings, home-price expectations: New York Fed survey
Americans expected weaker personal earnings growth and home prices, according to a survey done last month by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
The survey, released on Monday, showed median earnings growth expectations dropped to 2 percent, the lowest so far this year, thanks in part to respondents with lower education levels.
Median home price-change expectations slipped for the fourth straight month to 3.8 percent, the lowest since the survey was launched in June 2013, when the result was 4.7 percent. The New York Fed said the most recent decline was driven by higher-income households.
From the New York Times, emphasis added:
Plaintiff in Silicon Valley Hiring Suit Maligns Deal
Apple has more than $150 billion in the bank, eclipsing the combined cash reserves of Israel and Britain. Google, Intel and Adobe have a total of about $80 billion stored up for a rainy day.
Against such tremendous cash hoards, $324 million is chump change. But that is what the four technology companies have agreed to pay to settle a class action brought by their own employees.
The suit, which was on track to go to trial in San Jose, Calif., at the end of May, promised weeks if not months of damaging revelations about how Silicon Valley executives conspired to suppress wages and limit competition. Details of the settlement are still under wraps.
Added misery from the Washington Post:
Jobless contend with weight gain as they search for work
A subject long ignored by policymakers, and one that unemployment counselors are too sheepish to raise with job seekers, the link between bulging waistlines and joblessness is now of intense interest to researchers studying the long-term effects of the country’s economic malaise.
Recent studies and surveys have shown a distinct relationship between unemployment and obesity, particularly for lower-skilled workers who struggle to find work — a search made more challenging by their weight.
In Hagerstown, where blue-collar jobs have gone overseas or to cheaper parts of the country, 8.4 percent are unemployed — well above Maryland’s 5.9 percent rate. Last month, Gallup identified the area as the third-heaviest place in the United States, with almost 37 percent of its residents obese. Local studies put the number even higher.
ThinkProgress offers a ray of sunshine:
Vermont Passes The Highest State Minimum Wage In The Country
Vermont’s minimum wage will rise from $8.73 to $10.50 over the next four years under a bill that won final passage just before the legislative session ended on Saturday. The measure puts Vermont on track to have the highest minimum wage of any state in 2018, higher than a handful of states whose pay floors will rise to $10.10 under laws approved this year.
“I will be proud to sign it,” Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) said of the bill. The final version will phase in the higher wage in order to win nearly unanimous support in both chambers. The state’s minimum wage was already indexed to inflation.
The Green Mountain state is the seventh to enact a minimum wage hike this year and the fourth to crack the $10 mark. Delaware and West Virginia lawmakers raised their wages above $8 an hour. Minnesota raised the minimum wage for most large companies to $9.50. And Hawaii, Maryland, and Connecticut each established $10.10 minimum wages.
But MintPress News notes another ominous sign:
The Minimum Wage Employees Of The Future, Today
A boom in self-service kiosks in restaurants have some people wondering if technology is replacing minimum wage workers.
“People don’t go into business to create jobs; they go into business to make money,” wrote Jonah Goldman for Omaha.com in opposition to the president’s push to raise the nation’s base pay. “Labor is a cost. The more expensive labor is, the more attractive nonhuman replacements for labor become. The minimum wage makes labor more expensive. Obama knows this, which is why he so often demonizes ATMs as job-killers.”
Those who buy into this line of thought point to Panera Bread’s recent announcement that it will be replacing some of its manned registers with self-help kiosks. Panera’s kiosks will enable customers to look at pictures of the prepared dishes, make their selections from mounted touchscreens and pay for their orders by credit or debit card without the help of a cashier. Customers would then take a pager — which would inform them when their food is ready — and be seated, with a server delivering orders as they are ready. Customers will also be able order tableside, using a smartphone or a tablet.
Panera CEO Ron Shaich, however, insists that this is not being done to reduce labor costs. “The dirty little secret in the food industry is one in seven orders is wrong. We’re one in ten, a little better than average,” said Shaich in an interview. “Half of those inaccuracies happen during order input.” Shaich insists that only one or two registers in each restaurant will be replaced by the kiosks and that the kiosks are meant to improve issues with checkout speed. They would also facilitate food customization to accommodate a growing population of picky eaters.
And form USA TODAY, austerity’s most hapless victims:
Psychiatric beds disappear despite growing demand
Across the country, it’s getting harder to find a psychiatric hospital bed for patients in crisis, doctors and advocates say.
States have been reducing hospital beds for decades, because of insurance pressures as well as a desire to provide more care outside institutions. Tight budgets during the recession forced some of the most devastating cuts in recent memory, says Robert Glover, executive director of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors.
States cut $5 billion in mental health services from 2009 to 2012. In the same period, the country eliminated at least 4,500 public psychiatric hospital beds — nearly 10% of the total supply, he says.
North of the border to more austerian castoffs from BBC News:
Canada faces ‘crisis’ on indigenous living conditions
Canada faces a “crisis” over the living conditions of its aboriginal residents, the UN special rapporteur for the rights of indigenous peoples has said.
James Anaya said Canada had taken “positive steps” but that “daunting challenges” remained, including a lower level of “well-being”.
He said aboriginal women and girls remained vulnerable to abuse, and noted a lack of trust of the government.
On to Europe with the Guardian:
IMF chief Lagarde warns Europe’s crisis isn’t over
Europe’s financial crisis is not over, and that the Ukraine crisis could derail the global recovery, Christine Lagarde has warned today, urging against a “false sense of security” in the euro area.
The managing director of the International Monetary Fund said that weak bank lending, and low inflation rates, posed serious threats to the European recovery.
In an interview with Germany’s Handelsblatt, Lagarde cautions against undue optimism, just because countries (such as Ireland) have emerged from their bailout programmes.
And another alarm from EUbusiness:
Europeans still gloomy about economy, ahead of EU vote
Support for the EU is slowly rising ahead of European Parliament elections, but most Europeans remain gloomy about the economy and complain their voices are not heard in Brussels, a poll found.
Fears about immigration are also coloring public opinion in the run-up to polls later this month with most Europeans believing that newcomers are a burden on their already struggling economies, the Pew Research Center found.
The survey was conducted across seven key European Union members — Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland and Spain — from March 17 to April 9 among 7,022 people.
Britain next, and peculiarly convenient austerity, at least for banksters, from the Guardian:
City fraud cases on brink of collapse in growing row over legal aid cuts
- Appeal court ruling could derail high-profile prosecutions designed to clean up London’s financial markets
The biggest City fraud cases since the crash of 2008 are close to collapsing because of the government’s cuts to legal aid. The refusal of barristers to work at the government’s new low rates has already led to Judge Anthony Leonard throwing out charges against five men accused of conning investors out of their savings by selling them land at grotesquely inflated prices.
If the court of appeal upholds the verdict on Tuesday, a string of prosecutions designed to clean up London’s financial markets may be dropped. Last week, solicitors for alleged insider dealers caught in the Financial Conduct’s Authority’s Operation Tabernula – the most ambitious and expensive investigation into the City – said they would seek to have the charges against their clients thrown out.
Colin Nott, who represents Richard Baldwin, one of six defendants who are due to stand trial in September, said he could not find a QC to represent his client. Unless the fight between the coalition government and the legal profession stopped, it would be impossible for Baldwin to have a fair trial. Detectives told the Observer that they feared an investigation into the manipulation of Libor rates, welcomed by chancellor George Osborne, could also come to nothing.
Plutocratic hubris on the Emerald Isle from the Irish Times:
Trump and environmentalists on collision course
- Billionaire hints he hopes to extend Doonbeg golf links course across EU-protected sites at the property
Donald Trump looks set for a collision course with environmentalists after strongly hinting yesterday he hopes to extend his Doonbeg golf links course across EU-protected sites at the property.
The course – originally designed by Greg Norman – omitted EU-designed Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) from the 18-hole course design.
At his press conference in Shannon yesterday, Trump said: “Greg Norman couldn’t use the right land. A lot of people would say ‘that’s strange, why didn’t you use the right land?’ I don’t want people to say that anymore.”
Germany next, and politically acceptable targets from TheLocal.de:
Germans accept gays more, immigrants less
Tolerance of homosexuality has increased in nearly all German states since the fall of the Wall 25 years ago, but acceptance of immigrants who keep their traditions has declined, according to a study published on Monday.
Published on Monday by the Bertelsmann Foundation, the social cohesion study showed tolerance for social diversity had grown since reunification. The report stated that there was a “more relaxed approach” towards sexual minorities.
Even in Bavaria, ranked as the least tolerant of the western German states, acceptance of homosexuality had increased.
Immigrants on the other hand, were still being met with scepticism, with fewer Germans considering immigrants to be an “enrichment of cultural life in the country”.
France next, and controversial consolidation from New Europe:
France drawing ire with plans to redraw nation’s map, erasing borders to save money
France’s administrative regions — Normandy, Alsace, Burgundy, etc. — have long been part of the identity of citizens of this diverse country. Now, merging some of them is seen as a logical way to save money on bureaucracy, and the French support it — as long as it’s someone else’s turf.
The recent proposal of France’s new prime minister to cut the number of regions in half by 2017 is provoking sharp disputes — especially in areas with strong historical identity. It’s somewhat like erasing the state lines between Texas and Oklahoma.
A poll suggests that 68 percent of the French believe the measure to be a necessity — but 77 percent reject the disappearance of their own region. Polling agency LH2 questioned 5,111 people nationwide in February and March. The margin of error was 1.4 percentage points.
“This is where we will learn who the real reformers are and who are the conservatives,” French President Francois Hollande said this month on national TV. He’s trying to counter his image as a man afraid of unpopular cost-cutting reforms that many economists say his nation needs in order to thrive.
More Francoausterity from ANSAmed:
Crisis: France, cuts for ministry expenses by 15% in 3 years
In a framework letter concerning the 2015-17 budgets sent over the weekend to the government’s ministries, the premier asked for a 15% cut in ordinary expenses by 2017 and expenses in general including pensions.
”There is an across-the-board objective but is has to be adapted to different ministries”, a government source was quoted as saying by Les Echos over complaints from a number of ministries already targeted by significant cuts last year. The austerity measures don’t only concern ordinary expenses but also aid to State institutions (universities, weather services, chambers of commerce and research centres), which will have to shrink 2% a year in the next three years, and investment operations so there is no specific number indicated but a more general call to operate under a tight budget, especially in terms of expenses for real estate, computer technology and support services. As far as the number of employees is concerned, the framework letters asked for an overall stabilization which will translate in a 2% cut for some ministries, necessary to compensate new hires in schools, the judiciary and police.
On to Switzerland and another form of anxiety, with a price tag of $24.79 an hour from the Guardian:
Switzerland: referendum may herald world’s highest minimum wage
- Business leaders uneasy at prospect of 18 May vote on proposal to increase minimum to 22 Swiss francs an hour
Swiss business leaders shocked by past popular votes on executive pay and immigration are wary of a referendum on 18 May that could see Switzerland adopt the world’s highest minimum wage of 22 Swiss francs (£14.70) an hour.
A recent opinion poll by gfs.bern found that 64% of voters were against the proposal, made by the SGB union and supported by the Socialist and Green parties. But Switzerland’s system of direct democracy, with frequent popular votes on social, political or economic matters, has brought surprises before: the Swiss unexpectedly voted in February to curb EU immigration.
“I’m feeling uneasy about the upcoming vote,” said Ralph Mueller, division head at electronic components maker Schurter.
On to Italy and a Bunga Bunga wiseguy unmasking from the Independent:
Silvio and the Cosa Nostra: Berlusconi’s links with Italian organised crime confirmed
Silvio Berlusconi – Italy’s former Prime Minister and one of the world’s most recognisable politicians – did business with the mafia for nearly two decades.
That is the conclusion of the country’s Supreme Court of Cassation in Rome. The billionaire tycoon, nicknamed the Teflon Don, worked with Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian Mafia, via his conduit and former senator Marcello Dell’Utri after judges sentenced Dell’Utri to seven years for mafia association.
Three-time premier Berlusconi, 77, has always denied rumours that mob links were behind the large and opaquely sourced investments used to kickstart his construction and media businesses in the 1970s and 1980s.
After the jump it’s on to Greece and the latest economic and political crises, the unfolding Ukrainian saga, Europe’s Bulgarian blues, a Turkish legal hit, In Afghan fields the poppies grow, a Uruguayan rebuke for Obama, Aussie austerity, China’s burst real estate bubble and elite spending, Japanese economic woes, a full slate of major environmental developments, and Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . .