Having lost a host of entries through a browser crash, we’re feeling touched by absurdity, and so we begin with this from Taiwanese Animators:
AT&T buys DirecTV for $48.5 billion: Monopoly Media Mergers Edition
AT&T announced it plans to buy DirecTV, the top US satellite TV operator, for $48.5 billion in an attempt to grow beyond an increasingly hostile cellular market.
The deal was announced on Sunday. AT&T said it is offering $95 per DirecTV share in a combination of cash and stock, a 10 percent premium over Friday’s closing price of $86.18. The cash portion, $28.50 per share, will be financed by cash, asset sales, financing already lined up and other debt market transactions.
If the deal is approved by US regulators, AT&T would add 20 million DirecTV customers to its paltry 5.7 million U-verse customers, plus another 18 million DirecTV customers in Latin America.
The Wire adds more, less theatrically:
AT&T Promises to Uphold Net Neutrality for Three Years if DirecTV Deal Goes Through
In the event the $48 billion AT&T-DirecTV deal closes, the new joint company is promising to uphold the current net neutrality rules for at least three years. This promise would be valid regardless of how the FCC vote on the issue goes later this year.
In their proposal for the DirecTV purchase, AT&T issued a list of commitments, which they are calling “benefits of the transaction.” One of these “benefits” is the following:
Net Neutrality Commitment. Continued commitment for three years after closing to the FCC’s Open Internet protections established in 2010, irrespective of whether the FCC re-establishes such protections for other industry participants following the DC Circuit Court of Appeals vacating those rules.
In the event the FCC’s paid prioritization proposal passes, AT&T won’t actually participate in the potentially multi-million dollar scheme (if they keep their promise, that is.) This is also a major show of good faith to the FCC, which will have to approve the merger.
From the Guardian, a rare cause of a faint twinge of something approaching but not exactly qualifying as joy:
Credit Suisse pleads guilty to criminal charges in US tax evasion settlement
- Bank is first in more than a decade to admit to a crime in US and will pay more than $2.5bn in penalties
Credit Suisse Group has pleaded guilty to criminal charges that it helped Americans evade taxes, becoming the first bank in more than a decade to admit to a crime in the US. It will now pay a long-expected fine of $2.5bn (£1.5bn).
“This case shows that no financial institution no matter its size or global reach is above the law,” said the attorney general, Eric Holder. He said the years-long investigation had uncovered evidence of an “extensive and wide-ranging” conspiracy to hide taxes from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the bank’s involvement in it.
“The bank went to elaborate lengths to shield itself, its employees, and the tax cheats it served from accountability for their criminal actions. They subverted disclosure requirements, destroyed bank records, and concealed transactions involving undeclared accounts by limiting withdrawal amounts and using offshore credit and debit cards to repatriate funds. They failed to take even the most basic steps to ensure compliance with tax laws,” said Holder.
From Al Jazeera America, an unsurprising correlation:
Study: Student debt worst at universities with highest-paid presidents
- Executives at 25 universities saw 14 percent higher salary increase than national average after 2008 recession
Student debt and the hiring of relatively low-paid adjunct faculty rather than full-time professors have grown fastest at public universities with the highest-paid presidents, a new report found.
University president pay has risen dramatically in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, according to the report, which focuses on 25 state universities that pay their presidents almost double the national average. Released Sunday by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a progressive Washington D.C.-based think tank, the study is called The One Percent at State U — referring to the financial gains made by executives after the 2008 recession.
Nationwide, between the fall of 2009 and the summer of 2012, average executive compensation at public research universities increased 14 percent to $544,544, according to the study
Another unsurprising correlation, via KCBS:
Inner City Oakland Youth Suffering From Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
The Centers for Disease Control said 30 percent of inner city kids suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The CDC said these children often live in virtual war zones. Doctors at Harvard said they actually suffer from a more complex form of PTSD.
Unlike soldiers, children in the inner city never leave the combat zone. They often experience trauma, repeatedly.
“You could take anyone who is experiencing the symptoms of PTSD, and the things we are currently emphasizing in school will fall off their radar. Because frankly it does not matter in our biology if we don’t survive the walk home,” said Jeff Duncan-Andrade, Ph.D. of San Francisco State University.
A cross-border legal beef from the Canadian Press, with that old “corporate person” free speech once again at issue:
Canada-U.S. meat labelling row hears free speech arguments
Canadian livestock producers were in an American courtroom Monday fighting against labelling requirements blamed for having devastated their exports to the United States.
The case revolves around the free-speech rights guaranteed in the First Amendment, one of the most sacrosanct provisions of the American Constitution.
Canadian and Mexican producers, and the U.S. partners they supply, argue that those speech rights are being violated by the requirement that they stamp country-of-origin labels on meat packaging.
On to Europe, with growth at the margin from TheLocal.st:
Europe’s far right expect election gains
Europe’s far-right is looking to overcome deep divisions and establish itself as a major player in Brussels after EU elections this week where it is expected to make significant gains.
With voters tired of a European Union handing down decisions from on high, parties like France’s National Front (FN), Britain’s UKIP and Austria’s Freedom Party (FPOe) are going strong in the polls ahead of the May 22-25 ballot.
But it might not be all plain sailing in the months to come.
Ireland next, and austerity once again victimizing its victims, via TheJournal.ie:
Two rape crisis centres are to close temporarily as cuts take hold
- The services in Clare and Tipperary will be closed for at least a month because of a €120,000 shortfall.
TWO RAPE COUNSELLING services in the Midwest are to be temporaily closed because of a funding shortfall the service estimates at €120,000.
Rape Crisis Midwest has centres in Limerick, Clare and Tipperary but is to close the latter two services for a least one month to save costs.
The service provides confidential one to one counselling to survivors of rape and childhood sexual abuse and says that it helps about 80 people a week.
Cash flowing from one end of Eurasia to another, via TheLocal.no:
Chinese tycoon agrees to buy Norway land
The Chinese property billionaire blocked from buying a huge chunk of Iceland is reportedly close to buying up a 100 hectares of the scenic Lyngen coastline.
Huang Nubo, a Communist party member who spent ten years working in the country’s propaganda ministry, on Thursday agreed to buy the site, which has already received planning permission for a series of villas, from Ola OK Giæver Jr, a local landowner, pilot and businessman.
“I can promise you a new era for Lyngen municipality. I trust that Huang Nubo will create huge and positive financial ripples throughout the north of Norway,” Giæver jr said. “There is not a better capitalist than Huang.”
Sweden next, and one way to make homelessness vanish, the neooliberal version, via TheLocal.se:
Stockholm says no to ‘freakshow’ soup kitchen
Stockholm municipality has ruled that a soup kitchen which had served hearty broth to the city’s homeless for the past two years must move on due to the risk of the city square being “turned into a zoo”.
“Nazis can march freely and water is thrown on people begging, but to create a meeting place to challenge politicians and other people to actually do something is obviously very dangerous and terrible,” Elin Jakobsson at Soup Kitchen Stockholm said in response to the decision via social media.
The organization has been active for the past two years and works both as a source of food and a monthly meeting place for the city’s homeless population. The soup kitchen requires a police permit and on Monday its application for renewal was rejected.
But it can be carried to far, of course, via TheLocal.se:
Shopkeeper charged over beggar dousing
A Gothenburg shopkeeper has been charged over the drenching of a beggar with water in front of his shop in March, an incident which sparked an outraged response on social media.
The man was charged on Monday with two counts of harassment.
The first was for an incident on March 10th when he threw a bucket of warm water at his own Hemköp window, effectively soaking a beggar sitting nearby. The second charge was for the day after, when the man did the same thing with a bucket of cold water.
On both occasions, the woman begging by the windows was drenched, and the prosecutor argued on Monday that both acts were carried out with intent.
From GlobalPost, going medieval:
In Germany, no means yes
- A regressive definition of rape highlights the country’s stubbornly traditional attitudes toward women.
No means yes, at least in this country.
When a rape court in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia acquitted the alleged rapist of a 15-year-old girl in 2012, women’s rights advocates were outraged.
The ruling found that saying no, or even screaming it, wasn’t enough to merit rape charges. Now findings from a new study indicate that case was hardly unique, despite a European initiative to step up efforts to stop violence against women.
The number of German rape cases ending in convictions has plummeted from 22 percent to 8 percent over the past 20 years, according to a study released by the Hanover-based Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony
A suggestion for a foreign visitor from TheLocal.de:
Mayor urges Erdogan to cancel German trip
German politicians called on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday to cancel an upcoming pre-election appearance to Cologne in the wake of a deadly mine disaster.
Amid mounting anger within Turkey over his response to last week’s coal mine blast in which 301 died, Erdogan faced condemnation and calls to cancel his visit next Saturday from across the political spectrum in Germany.
Erdogan is due to address supporters in Germany, where three million Turks or people of Turkish origin live, with a visit to the western city of Cologne. For the first time, some 2.6 million Turks living abroad, including 1.5 million in Germany alone, will be able to cast their votes in the August presidential vote in which Erdogan is expected to stand.
More from Deutsche Welle:
Germany urges restraint ahead of Erdogan’s planned speech in Cologne
The German government has urged Turkey’s prime minister to exercise restraint when he visits the country on the weekend. This followed calls from some German politicians for Recep Tayyip Erdogan to cancel his visit.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin on Monday that as the prime minister of a “really close and important partner” nation, Erdogan was welcome in Germany, where he plans to deliver a speech to local Turks on Saturday.
At the same time, though, Seibert said the German government expected Erdogan to choose his words carefully at what he described as a “difficult” time, given the political tensions in Turkey in light of the recent mining disaster and the fact that it comes one day before the European elections.
Seibert said in light of this, the government expected Erdogan to deliver a “sensitive, responsible” speech, when he addresses thousands of his fellow countrymen and women at an indoor stadium in the western city of Cologne.
Another bankster busted, from TheLocal.fr:
Rogue trader Kerviel imprisoned in France
The former trader Jérome Kerviel was finally behind bars in France on Monday after being picked up by French police at midnight. Kerviel is due to start a three year prison sentence over his role in losing former employers Société Général €5 billion through high-risk trading.
French police arrested rogue trader Jérôme Kerviel at midnight on Sunday, shortly after he had crossed the border from Italy into France on his walk home from Rome to Paris.
A local prosecutor then announced on Monday morning that Kerviel was behind bars in the Riviera city of Nice.
TheLocal.fr again, with some reassurance for the poorest:
French income tax cuts for poorest to last to 2017
A plan to exempt France’s poorest households from income tax will not just be a one-off for this year, the government finance minister said this week. The income tax breaks will actually apply until 2017, the minister Michel Sapin said.
There was more cheer for the more hard-up tax payers in France on Monday when the finance minister Michel Sapin announced a government plan to apply the recently revealed breaks until 2017.
Sapin’s pledge comes days after French Prime Minister Manuel Valls made the headlines by announcing that the government plans to exempt 1.8 million households from the income tax burden.
From El País, Spanish repos rising:
Home repossessions up 10% in 2013
- Spanish lenders took back nearly 50,000 properties last year
- Figures released by Bank of Spain suggest more borrowers are handing back keys in payment
Spanish lenders repossessed 49,694 homes from defaulting borrowers in 2013, a 10% rise from a year earlier, figures released on Monday by the Bank of Spain show.
Of these, 38,961 were first residences, according to statistics provided by the banks. The vast majority of properties were empty at the time of repossession.
Meanwhile, the proportion of cases involving dation in payment, in which borrowers in arrears hand over the keys of the property to the lender that approved the mortgage to cancel debt obligations, reached 32.5% of all repossessed homes.
Pimping the rich fails to enrich, via TheLocal.es:
Spain’s ‘golden visa’ scheme fails to shine
Just 72 people have signed on to a controversial Spanish ‘visa for cash’ scheme which grants automatic Spanish residency to people who buy a property worth at least €500,000 ($685,000).
The so-called ‘golden visa’ scheme has reaped only small rewards, according to Spain’s El País newspaper.
Introduced in September 2013, the law gives foreigners who invest large sums in Spanish property, public debt and projects of general interest the right to reside in Spain.
And from thinkSPAIN, another way California is like Spain:
Worst drought in 150 years hits southern and eastern Spain
A DROUGHT of the scale not seen in over a century and a half is threatening water resources in Spain’s south and east after the lowest rainfall on record over the autumn, winter and spring.
The worst-hit provinces are Valencia and Alicante where, following a sudden and unprecedented gota fría or Mediterranean ‘monsoon’ in late August, it has barely rained between September and June.
Murcia, Albacete, Cuenca, Teruel, Cádiz, Málaga, Jaén and Almería are also at high risk – the only provinces in Andalucía which are safe are Granada, Sevilla and Huelva.
From El País, and how [to employ a sexist term] broad-minded of them:
Spanish conservatives forgive sexist remarks by their European contender
- Women at Popular Party rally play down Arias Cañete’s views about male “intellectual superiority”
It was just a minor “slip.” Popular Party (PP) voters are writing off as unimportant statements about the intellectual superiority of men made last week by the party’s top European candidate, Miguel Arias Cañete, despite leaders’ fears they might have jeopardized his chances of winning.
Several women who attended a Sunday rally by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and PP secretary general María Dolores de Cospedal in Cuenca sought to play down the controversy over the sexist remarks.
During a televised debate with Elena Valenciano, his Socialist rival in next Sunday’s European elections, Arias Cañete claimed that he had held back from serious intellectual confrontation because “if you abuse your intellectual superiority, you end up looking like a sexist intimidating a defenseless woman.”
Italy next and a wiseguy lipoff lambasted via ANSA.it:
Renzi hits back after Grillo mafia jibe
- Premier says PD marks real face of change
Premier Matteo Renzi hit back Monday after Beppe Grillo, the leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), used a Mafia jibe to suggest his political career was close to ending as the campaign for Sunday’s European elections grew increasingly venomous.
Renzi’s centre-left Democratic Party (PD) is top in most polls, but Grillo is confident his M5S, who are second in the surveys after capturing a stunning 25% of the vote in last year’s general election, can come first with a late surge.
“Renzie has been hired on a temporary project to win the European elections, but he’ll lose them,” Grillo wrote Monday on his popular blog, using a nickname that refers to the premier’s alleged attempt to come across as cool like TV’s Fonzie.
TheLocal.it notes another grime number:
Italy’s employment rate is one of Europe’s worst
- The Italian employment rate fell to 59.8 percent last year, one of the worst in Europe, according to figures released on Monday by the European Commission.
Fewer than 60 percent of Italians aged 20 to 64 were employed in 2013, far below the EU average of 68.3 percent.
The new figure sees Italy slip to figures not seen for over a decade, with last year’s rate just higher than the 59.2 percent recorded in 2002. Between then and 2008 the situation steadily improved for workers in Italy, until the global financial crisis struck and led to a steady decline in employment.
According to the European Commission data, Italy now has one of the worst employment rates in Europe, just slightly higher than Spain’s 58.2 percent. Only Greece, with 53.2 percent, and Croatia (53.9 percent) fared worse in 2013.
Napolitano says EU must help on migrants
- Italy is main entrance for flow that’s creating emergency
President Giorgio Napolitano said Monday that the European Union must provide Italy with greater help in coping with a massive wave of migrants arriving from North Africa. “Today we are faced with the absolute need to achieve a concrete, operative model of cooperation with the European Union,” Napolitano told Italian officials at the United Nations in Geneva, ANSA sources said. The Head of State added that while migrant arrivals had caused an emergency for all of southern Europe, Italy is “the main entrance”. There has been friction between Rome and Brussels after two migrant boat disasters south of Italy last week in which around 60 people are confirmed dead and many more may have lost their lives.
Rome says the EU is not doing enough to support it after it launched the humanitarian Mare Nostrum (Our Sea) search-and-rescue border operation in October, after roughly 400 migrants drowned in two wrecks off the coast of Sicily.
On Wednesday Premier Matteo Renzi accused the European Union of looking the other way as Italy struggles to cope with the crisis.
After the jump, fascinating electoral news from Greece, the latest from the Ukraine, Libyan turmoil, pre-World Cup jitters in Brazil, polio rising, a Thai takeover, Chinese real estate developments, Japanese Trans-Pacific intransigence, melting polar caps, other environmental woes, and the latest in Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading