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Showing posts from December 16, 2014

Sorry, Putin. Russia’s economy is doomed

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[Certain all-eggs-in-one-petrobasket Prime Ministers and Premiers might want to pay attention. Falling oil prices mean that Russian oil exporters earn fewer dollars to exchange for rubles. The ruble collapses. What next? "Russia is stuck in an economic catch-22. Its economy needs lower interest rates to push up growth, but its companies need higher interest rates to push up the ruble and make all the dollars they borrowed not worth so much. So, to use a technical term, they’re screwed no matter what they do." *RON*]

By Matt O'Brien, Washington Post, 15 December 2014
A funny thing happened on the way to Vladimir Putin running strategic laps around the West. Russia's economy imploded.

The latest news is that Russia's central bank raised interest rates from 10.5 to 17 percent at an emergency 1 a.m. meeting in an attempt to stop the ruble, which is down 50 percent on the year against the dollar, from falling any further. It's…

Kansas Governor Proposes Using Pension Money to Cover Budget Gaps Created By His Tax Cuts

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[Beloved by conservatives for cutting taxes to corporations and the rich, Gov. Sam Brownback now proposes to pay for the loss of income by raiding the pension plans of Kansas public employees, which is already one of the worst in the US. *RON*]
By David Sirota, International Business Times, 15 December 2014
In 2012, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed a landmark bill that delivered big tax cuts to high income earners and businesses. Less than two years after that tax cut, the state's income tax revenues plummeted by a quarter-billion dollars -- and now Brownback is pushing to use money for public employees’ pensions to instead cover the state's ensuing budget shortfalls.

Brownback's proposal: Slash the state’s required pension contribution by $40 million to balance the state budget. But Kansas already has one of the worst-funded pension systems in the nation. The state was also recently sanctioned by the Securities and Exchange Commissi…

Wealth inequality has widened along racial, ethnic lines since end of Great Recession

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[Another take on the recent Pew survey on wealth inequality. I'm still shocked by the absolute size of the White versus Black and Hispanic gap, never mind any changes that have occurred. Note that, sad in its own way, the gap was actually narrowed when visible minorities were targeted for NINA (No Income, No Assets) mortgages, peaking between '04 and '06. *RON*]
BY RAKESH KOCHHAR AND RICHARD FRY, Pew Research, 12 December 2014


The Great Recession, fueled by the crises in the housing and financial markets, was universally hard on the net worth of American families. But even as the economic recovery has begun to mend asset prices, not all households have benefited alike, and wealth inequality has widened along racial and ethnic lines.

The wealth of white households was 13 times the median wealth of black households in 2013, compared with eight times the wealth in 2010, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Feder…

Stephen Harper's Unappointed Senate Seats Unconstitutional, Vancouver Lawyer Says

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[So, the fundamental purpose of the Senate is to pass Harper's legislation? Is it possible he's missed a basic constitutional point here? *RON*]
CBC / Huffington Post, 15 December 2014


A Vancouver lawyer is taking Prime Minister Stephen Harper to court for failing to fill 16 empty Senate seats, claiming the delay in appointing senators is a violation of the Canadian Constitution.

Aniz Alani has filed an application in Federal Court calling for the appointment of 16 senators, arguing the Constitution requires the prime minister to fill empty seats in a reasonable amount of time.

The lawsuit follows comments Harper made at an event earlier this month in Markham, Ont.

"I don't think I'm getting a lot of calls from Canadians to name more senators right about now," Harper said.

Europe’s Anti-Austerity Duo

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[Two people who may become rallying-points for a European anti-austerity campaign. It's a sign of our (shallow) times that their being 'photogenic' must be mentioned. Note also that a recent poll shows that the British public opposes Osborne's austerity plan by a margin of 2 to 1, and they are joined by calls from Scottish and Welsh Nationalists and the UK Green Party to abandon austerity policies. *RON*]

By Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg and Pierpaolo Barbierdec, New York Times, 16 December 2014

Among the many consequences of Europe’s years-long economic crisis is the hardening of the eurozone into two camps: a pro-austerity side, led by Angela Merkel of Germany and, under Nicolas Sarkozy, France; and a pro-stimulus side, which comprises pretty much everyone else.

The crisis continues, but the days of Franco-German neoliberal dominance (known around Europe as “Merkozy”) are gone. Not only is Mr. Sarkozy no longer president, but the …

Taliban halted after slaughtering at least 130, mostly children, in Pakistan school

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[Utter depravity. The school attacked was for children of the Pakistan military. *RON*]
By Sophia Saifi and Greg Botelho, CNN, 16 December 2014

HIGHLIGHTS NEW: Student: "They climbed the benches and started firing at the children"
NEW: Hospital official says many injured have gunshot wounds all over their bodies
NEW: U.S. President Obama: "Terrorists have once again shown their depravity"
The attack was on a Peshawar school; most of those killed were between 12 and 16

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- A deadly, hours-long siege of a school in northwest Pakistan ended Tuesday evening with all the Taliban militants responsible killed, at least 130 people -- most of them children -- dead and a country once again grasping for answers after a horrific attack.

Six suicide bombers scaled the walls of Army Public School and Degree College in the violence-plagued city of Peshawar around 10 a.m. (midnight ET) intent on killing older students ther…

"Witness 40": Exposing A Fraud In Ferguson

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["TSG probe unmasks grand jury witness who spun fabricated tale." One from my friend Harry on the high quality of the witnesses who supported the exculpation of Officer Darren Wilson. *RON*]

By William Bastone, Andrew Goldberg, Joseph Jesselli, The Smoking Gun, 15 December 2014


The grand jury witness who testified that she saw Michael Brown pummel a cop before charging at him “like a football player, head down,” is a troubled, bipolar Missouri woman with a criminal past who has a history of making racist remarks and once insinuated herself into another high-profile St. Louis criminal case with claims that police eventually dismissed as a “complete fabrication,” The Smoking Gun has learned.

In interviews with police, FBI agents, and federal and state prosecutors--as well as during two separate appearances before the grand jury that ultimately declined to indict Officer Darren Wilson--the purported eyewitness delivered a preposterous and p…