A great deal happening, so straight to it.
We begin with a peculiarly belated recognition from The Hill:
Obama: ‘Profoundly unequal’ economy a ‘fundamental threat’
President Obama on Wednesday declared that addressing income inequality would be the focus of “all” of the White House’s efforts “for the rest of my presidency.”
In a sweeping address that touched on raising the minimum wage, investing in infrastructure and ending tax breaks for the wealthy, Obama warned that the American economy has become “profoundly unequal,” declaring economic mobility the “challenge of our time.”
From the New York Times, more inequality on the way:
Pension Ruling in Detroit Echoes West to California
A judge’s decision in Michigan is resonating all the way to California.
The ruling by Judge Steven W. Rhodes, who is presiding in Detroit’s bankruptcy case, that public pensions are not protected from cuts could alter the course of bankrupt cities like Stockton and San Bernardino, Calif., that had been operating under the assumption that pensions were untouchable.
From Mother Jones, a good idea:
Elizabeth Warren: Big Banks Should Reveal Their Donations to Influential Think Tanks
On Wednesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called on the biggest US banks to disclose their donations to think tanks, which influence laws that affect them.
Under current law, banks and other corporations are not required to publicly report their contributions to think tanks. That means that lawmakers who use think tank data and analysis to shape laws and regulations designed to police banks do not know how much bank money influences that research.
From Salon, confirmation:
GOP debunked on food stamps: Everything they say about SNAP is wrong
Forget the nonsense about them breeding dependency. Food stamps increase self-sufficiency, research shows
From CNN, a well-connected not-so-newcomer:
Obama’s uncle wins immigration battle, gets OK to stay in U.S.
Onyango Okech Obama – an uncle of President Barack Obama who has been in the United States illegally for decades – has gotten a federal court’s OK to stay in his adopted country, according to an attorney representing the uncle.
Federal immigration Judge Leonard I. Shapiro in Massachusetts agreed without argument Tuesday to allow the uncle, who has been living and working in U.S. for 50 years, to stay and obtain a green card, said attorney Margaret Wong.
The Guardian covers Kochs:
ALEC calls for penalties on ‘freerider’ homeowners in assault on clean energy
- Documents reveal conservative group’s anti-green agenda
- Strategy to charge people who install their own solar panels
- Environmentalists accuse Alec of protecting utility firms’ profits
From International Business Times, ars gratia, and all that:
Detroit Institute Of Arts Vows To Prevent City From Auctioning Its Collection To Pay Creditors
Declared eligible for the largest-ever municipal bankruptcy Tuesday, Detroit has found itself in the spotlight of the art world with onlookers concerned that a portion of the Detroit Institute of Arts’ precious collection may be headed to the auction block to satisfy creditors of the financially distressed city.
From Reuters, more belated action to come:
Exclusive: U.S. plans new bank fraud cases in early 2014 – attorney general
The U.S. Justice Department plans to bring civil mortgage fraud cases against several financial institutions early in 2014, using as a template the case that ended last month in JPMorgan Chase & Co’s (JPM.N) $13 billion settlement, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Wednesday.
In an interview with Reuters, Holder would not say which companies or how many could face lawsuits but said the Justice Department was in contact with them and it was hard to say whether the talks would lead to settlements.
Bloomberg Businessweek covers another side of the banking world:
A Third of Bank Tellers Rely on Government Assistance, Study Says
Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley calculate that almost a third of all bank tellers receive some form of government assistance, according to the Washington Post. That includes $534 million for health insurance through Medicaid and coverage for low-income children, $250 million in tax credits for low and moderate earners, and more than $100 million in food stamps. They qualify for government aid because, on average, the country’s half a million tellers earn about $25,790 a year, or $12.40 an hour (if they work a 40-hour work week), according to the most recent government data. That’s less than similar administrative jobs, and tellers are also more likely to be part-time employees.
From Reuters, just doin’ business:
Wal-Mart pays lawyer fees for dozens of executives in bribery probe
Wal-Mart Stores Inc is paying for lawyers to represent more than 30 of its executives involved in a foreign corruption investigation, according to people familiar with the matter, an unusually high number that shows the depth of the federal probe.
The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating whether Wal-Mart paid bribes in Mexico to obtain permits to open new stores there, and whether executives covered up an internal inquiry into the payments. The department is also looking into possible misconduct by the world’s largest retailer in Brazil, China and India.
From My Budget 360, reality:
Top 10 percent of US households control nearly 75 percent of all wealth – Average Americans pretend to be temporarily embarrassed millionaires by going further into debt.
Channel NewsAsia Singapore with upbeat numerals:
US trade gap shrinks to US$40.6b in October
The US trade deficit narrowed to $40.6 billion in October on a strong rise in exports, the Commerce Department reported on Wednesday.
And from the Los Angeles Times, where you can “drive right up and put a great big hot dog in your face”:
First Wienerschnitzel, symbol of L.A. car culture, now a landmark
North of the border with the Toronto Globe and Mail:
Bank of Canada frets over low inflation, cites retail competition
Disinflation has become the Bank of Canada’s new worry as the central bank again left its key rate unchanged at 1 per cent.
The bank pointed to a persistent and unexpected drop in inflation caused by excess supply in the economy and heightened competition in the retail sector, where an influx of new U.S. chains is shaking up the industry.
CBC News drops a media ax:
Sun Media announces 200 layoffs
‘Cost containment’ continues at parent company Quebecor Media
And National Post has the latest Toronto mayoral folly:
Rob Ford may have offered $5,000 and car for ‘crack video’: new police documents
One of the men suspected of peddling the “crack video” of Mr. Ford said he also had pictures of the mayor “doing the hezza,” usually used as a slang term for heroin;
The New York Times covers Banksters Behaving Badly:
E.U. Imposes $2.3 Billion in Fines Over Rate-Rigging Scandal
Joining a chorus of regulators worldwide, the European Union fined a group of global financial institutions — including for the first time two American banks — a combined 1.7 billion euros to settle charges they colluded to fix benchmark interest rates.
The widely anticipated settlement, worth about $2.3 billion and announced by European Union antitrust officials on Wednesday, is the largest combined penalty ever levied by European competition authorities and marks the culmination of an investigation that dates back more than two years.
From New Europe, feeble numbers:
In the EU28 GDP increased by 0.2 per cent
Second estimate in Eurozone’s GDP
Eurozone’s GDP only grew by 0.1 per cent in the third quarter of 2013 compared with the second, recording a 0.4 per cent fall compared with the same quarter in 2012.
From Salon, a neoliberal desideratum nears completion:
Austerity is Americanizing European labor markets
Workers throughout Europe are losing their rights as their nations race to reduce the costs of labor
On to Britain with an ultimatum from the London Telegraph:
Goldman Sachs would ‘drastically’ cut its London office if the UK quits the EU
The Independent covers a national shame:
Food poverty in UK has reached level of ‘public health emergency’, warn experts
Hunger in Britain has reached the level of a “public health emergency” and the Government may be covering up the extent to which austerity and welfare cuts are adding to the problem, leading experts have said.
In a letter to the British Medical Journal, a group of doctors and senior academics from the Medical Research Council and two leading universities said that the effect of Government policies on vulnerable people’s ability to afford food needed to be “urgently” monitored.
And the BBC News covers another austerian move:
Autumn Statement: Plan to raise state pension age sooner
The date when people must be 68 to draw a state pension – formerly scheduled for 2046 – will be brought forward to the mid-2030s, Chancellor George Osborne will announce later.
Plans to be announced in Mr Osborne’s Autumn Statement mean the age could rise again to 69 by the late 2040s.
On to Sweden with TheLocal.se:
Sweden’s health system ‘worst in the Nordics’
Long queues to see a doctor and get treatment in Sweden have dragged the country far down a European ranking of healthcare providers, with Sweden now the worst among its Nordic neighbours despite efforts to cut waiting times.
TheLocal.se again, with another gain for the far right:
Sweden Democrats gain most in key voter survey
Sweden’s two largest political parties suffered drops in voter support, the country’s most-watched opinion poll revealed on Wednesday, while the far-fight Sweden Democrats solidified their position as Sweden’s third-largest party.
TheLocal.no covers another sign of dark feelings rising:
Foreign criminals who return face two years’ jail
Norway is set next week to vote in a ten-fold increase in the penalty for deported foreign criminals who illegally return to the country, VG newspaper has reported.
According to the proposal the penalty for breaking an expulsion order is to be increased from 35 days in prison to a maximum of two years.
On to Germany, and a Banksters Behaving Badly headline from Spiegel:
Rate Scandal: Deutsche Bank’s First Big Fine Won’t Be Its Last
Subprime mortgages, currency tricks, interest rate fixing: Wherever supervisory authorities have probed crooked deals of the past, Deutsche Bank comes up. Now Germany’s biggest bank has had to pay its first big fine. It won’t be the last.
Al Jazeera America covers terror from a quarter with deep roots:
Neo-Nazis may have been behind hundreds of unsolved German murders
Police launch review into killings first linked to immigrant groups, now thought to have involved the far right
And EUobserver has yet another instance of anti-Roma sentiments stirred up by demagogues:
German conservatives stir up ‘welfare tourism’ row
Several German conservatives are following the footsteps of their British colleagues, stoking fears about “welfare tourism” by Romanian and Bulgarians.
From Spiegel, the Americanization of German politics:
The Deal Makers: Coalition Deal Shows Rising Clout of Lobbyists
As the dust settled in Berlin, one group came out of last week’s coalition deal an unequivocal winner: Germany’s lobbyists. When it comes to shaping policy, corporate interests are wielding ever more influence on national politics.
On to France and a frayed icon from Spiegel:
Disneyland Paris: Europe’s Magic Kingdom Loses Its Magic
Disneyland Paris is currently besieged by unflattering headlines and faltering finances. Now an attempted suicide by a park employee is drawing attention to its labor practices. French unions are furious and an outspoken Belgian visitor is campaigning for big changes.
TheLocal.ch notes Swiss spending:
Swiss ready to spend more this Christmas
Swiss consumers retain a cautious outlook for the economy but are ready to spend a little more this Christmas than in the previous year, according to the 2013 Christmas retail survey by accounting and consulting company Deloitte.
The survey shows that Swiss households are budgeting an average of 807 francs (€656 or $893) for this yuletide season, up three percent from a year ago.
On to Spain, and a mob scene outside of Valencia via the London Telegraph:
IKEA gets 20,000 applications for just 400 jobs amid Spanish unemployment crisis
IKEA store’s computer servers crash after it gets 20,000 online applications for 400 jobs in just three days
TheLocal.es offers a dire assessment from a major player:
‘Spain won’t recover from crisis until 2033′
It will take Spain two decades, or until 2033, to see pre-crisis unemployment and growth levels, consultants PWC argue in a new report.
While Spain’s gross domestic product will grow 42 percent by 2033, or higher than the 26 percent of Germany and France’s 33 percent, the country won’t see pre-crisis growth levels until 2033, the PWC report argues.
A contrary view from BBC News:
Spain’s economic outlook improving, says Moody’s ratings agency
Ratings agency Moody’s has raised its outlook for Spain’s economy from “negative” to “stable”.
Moody’s said there had been a real improvement in the economy and government finances.
El País covers a neoliberal dream legally stricken:
Court rules one-year trial work contract without compensation illegal
Judgment applied to case of a laborer who was dismissed eight days before the 12-month period ended
thinkSPAIN conveys a reprimand:
Spain’s 600,000-euro fines for unauthorised demonstrations ‘problematic’, and austerity ‘a threat to human rights’, says European Commissioner
COUNCIL of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muiznieks says Spain’s controversial Public Safety Law is ‘highly problematic’ and that if it ‘goes any further’, he will ‘take it up with authorities’ in the country.
From El País, secession alliance:
Catalan pro-sovereignty parties seek deal for united ballot front
ERC will consider joint candidacy for EU parliamentary elections if independence vote goes ahead
The Portugal News covers the sale of a cherished piece of the commons:
Maximum price for CTT post office privatisation
The price of shares in the privatisation of CTT, the Portuguese postal service operator, has been set at €5.52, according to a statement from the CMVM stock market regulator.
With the first day of trading in the shares due on Thursday, the price turns out to be at the very top end of the price range set for the shares available to the public, which the government had said would be in the range of €4.10 and €5.52 earlier in November.
Italy next, and Bunga Bunga resurgence from New Europe:
Berlusconi considering running as a Bulgarian MEP
The former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is considering running in Bulgaria for the 2014 European elections.
According to the Italian media, Berlusconi is thinking to run as a candidate for the European Parliament by taking advantage of the EU law, which allows every EU citizen to run in any EU country in the European elections. The controversial Italian politician, who is banned from holding public office in Italy is also considering running in Hungary or Estonia.
Europe Online has another Bunga Bunga tale:
Berlusconi’s poodle a hit with Russia’s Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin is smitten with Silvio Berlusconi’s adopted white poodle, pictures published Wednesday show.
Putin paid Berlusconi a two-and-a-half-hour visit on November 26, a day before the Italian conservative leader and former prime minister was expelled from parliament due to a tax fraud conviction.
EUbusiness covers intolerance rising:
Italy minister hit by racist slurs warns over populism
Italy’s first black minister Cecile Kyenge, who has been deluged with racist slurs since her appointment in April, urged Europe’s leaders on Wednesday not to spread populism or use it to win votes.
“There has a been a rise in episodes of racism in many countries, probably linked to the economic crisis but also to a lack of knowledge about what European values really stand for,” Kyenge said at a press conference.
After the jump, the Greek meltdown continues, India fights for food, Chinese neoliberalism deepens, Japanese uncertainty vexes, the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!, and more. . . Continue reading